Dynamic Web Strategy and The Failure Of Best Practices

Posted on March 19, 2012
Filed Under Business |

One of the difficult things about redesigning a company website is that everyone has an opinion. What’s worse is that everyone has data to back it up.

If you have ever been engaged in this process, you’ve probably had people send you articles about how shorting the page or lengthening the page or changing the sign-up button to blue/red/green/rainbow, or whatever they are supporting - increased conversions by 300%. And you’ve probably wondered how all of this conflicting data can be true. I thought about this recently when this article about burying signup buttons to get more signups made the rounds here at Backupify. Burying a sign-up button is counterintuitive, so why does it work?

The short answer is: the web is dynamic.

What I mean is, best practices for one type of website at one point in time are not absolute. Your website doesn’t exist in isolation, it exists out on the web, in relation to everything else. When people browse the web, they develop a set of expectations about how things should behave based on the sites they visit. So when everyone changes their website, it affects how visitors perceive your website, even if your website doesn’t change.

What it means for designing a new website is that you have to think about the right mixture of novelty and comfortability. If your page is too novel, people won’t be comfortable engaging with you. If your page is too average, you won’t stand out and won’t be able to highlight the most common action paths on your site.

The overarching lesson is that you need to be constantly changing, updating, experimenting, and measuring website behavior. Watch common trends (like the new long homepage format some companies are using) and try them on your site, to see if they work for your users. But whatever you do, don’t get bogged down in the “best practices” debate. It takes forever to resolve and by the time you agree on what the best practices are - they’ve changed.

Comments

One Response to “Dynamic Web Strategy and The Failure Of Best Practices”

  1. Ken Howard on March 20th, 2012 2:25 pm

    This so true. I have been wanting to test things out but find that asking the agencies opinion leads to responses like “I’ve never seen that done. I think that would confuse people.”

    People have their opinion based on past experiences and enjoy comfort in conformity. I will strive to break that comfort now. Thanks!

  • About Rob

    Rob is co-founder of Backupify.com. He likes value investing, the Rolling Stones, college basketball, artificial intelligence, economic history and people who think independently.