A few months ago, The Nature Conservancy hired Blue State Digital to help their team improve navigation and increase clicks on their homepage. The Nature Conservancy, founded in 1951, is the leading organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.
A few months ago, The Nature Conservancy hired Blue State Digital to help their team improve navigation and increase clicks on their homepage. The Nature Conservancy, founded in 1951, is the leading organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. They are inspiring, and have an amazing digital team who understands online engagement.
Creating Harmony in Site Optimizations
In many circumstances an optimization engagement remains squarely in the realm of our analytics team, with a minor lift from the design and production teams to ensure any tweaks to layout, color, and messaging remain on brand and behave well. Other times, however, we are lucky enough to work with a client willing to do more than simply optimize for sake of increased signups or clickthroughs — they’re willing to use the analytics learnings to push and evolve the entire look and feel of their site.
Our initial analysis used Optimizely to employ a simple A/B test pitting the then-current site against a quickly reworked version sporting an alternate layout, color scheme, and messaging strategy. The results were unmistakable: they showed a 52% increase in total site goals triggered, including a 46% increase in traffic to the donation page and a 229% increase in email signups. These results gave the design team some solid guidance for layout, and a clear path forward.
Design and Analytics, Not Design vs. Analytics
As a designer, this kind of analytics-informed design can be hugely rewarding, and on a personal level, brings back memories of the 2008 Obama campaign, where we were invariably designing in close concert (and quarters) with our analytics team — constantly negotiating colors, layout, textures, typography, and messaging to support the overall feel and mood of the site and to increase donations, signups, and socialnet engagement.
This strategy is especially helpful when a full-scale redesign would be impractical or impossible. The number of possible changes — from information architecture to full-scale site organization to technical or code improvements — may not be available due to time or budget constraints. It can also serve to test the waters for a larger scale redesign.
Three Rules for Design-Analytics Harmony
1. Communicate Internally and with the Client
Before opening up Photoshop, we tested a new homepage layout based on close and constant communication between the design team, the analytics team, and the client. Outliers were outed and clickthroughs were counted. Navigation and action buttons were all tested for size, message, position, and color. Involving the client during each test helped us make sense of the data and prioritize our next-steps.
2. Respect the Brand
The Nature Conservancy has an incredibly strong brand. There was an established color palette and typographic system which needed to stay intact. Our mission was to open up the space, highlight the most important content and action areas, simplify navigation and wayfinding, and give the brand some room to breathe. Because interior pages would remain largely untouched, save for the header and footer, we were careful to respect color rules on the site and only devised new ones where necessary.
3. While It Can’t Be All About the Numbers, Remember Improving Numbers Feels Great
A huge pink button with animated stars might certainly get more clicks, but it would do so at the expense of the brand. While it is always important to prioritize user experience (or brand) over raw numbers, it doesn’t mean you can’t vastly improve metrics along the way.