Imagine you have to build a new website. You had a great idea for a product, and you want to express all its value to show people that it is the right solution for them. Before studying at CXL, you would have done what thousands of people and companies around the world probably do when they open a website. You would have called a web designer and discussed with her the details of the site: products, colors, pages.
That is what I have done many, many times. In our company we believe in focus and vertical communication, meaning that each product needs its own website if it is specific enough. I still remember the website for our first company: the home page was graphically neat, but I still remember it was full of text, and full of CTAs with no visual hierarchy. I did not know, of course, what visual hierarchy was and why it was so important, so me and my partners where just pleased with the fact that we had a “beautiful” website. I still remember reading that you needed a blog, to increase its “positioning” on the Google SERP – not that I knew what a SERP was, it sounded like a disease or a secret service agency. But we diligently wrote articles – one per partner, taking turns, each week. Of course, articles were not SEO-compliant, so it would not have worked anyway, but that would have been useless: we had no idea how to test it. We did not know how to measure traffic, qualify leads, increase conversion for the website. Actually, there was no CTA – I am not kidding – apart from the usual “contact us”, for prospective customers. No downloadable assets, no surveys, no videos, nothing. There was no strategy. The prospective client had to survive the wall of text we prepared for her, look for what she wanted in a disorganized website, and then write to us or call us. No wonder few called from the website. No wonder few even knew we had a website.
The funny – or tragic, depending on how you look at it – thing is, I have repeated the same mistake over and over again. When I sold my shares in the company and left, I built the website for my new company, and although the previous website did not give us any results, I blindly followed the same procedure: called a web designer, explained which products and services I wanted to showcase on my website, and we started building it. The result: a very nice website, that was impossible to navigate. Too many product categories, with no order – I still remember you had to click six or seven times to find what you wanted, based on the organization we created. You had to be very, very motivated to find what you wanted. I think our bounce rate was 90%. Not that I knew what a bounce rate was or what to do with it, I was just told by the website agency.
What strikes me most is the fact that web designers had no clue either: they were talking about design, not effectiveness. This happened to us again, three months ago, when we launched an online Academy. This time, though, it was different: web designer were, incredibly, the same and knew nothing about Conversion Optimization, user personas, heuristic evaluations etc. But I did and, basically, I built the website myself, telling them what to do every step of the way, explaining the reason why you needed certain visual cues, or structures. They were, supposedly, the experts, but I knew much more than them. And I haven’t completed the Conversion Optimization mini-degree yet. Imagine: in one week, I learned how to use Tag Manager, how to audit your Google Analytics set up in details, how to build user personas and test them and how to evaluate a website with a heuristic evaluation walk-through that made me cringe thinking about our previous websites.
I know how to build an effective website or landing page, how to increase effectiveness of each section of the site, from the hero section, to the Value Proposition, to the checkout form. I now know much, much more than web design agencies we worked with in the past. One agency in particular was also “expert” in SEO positioning, but apparently not, since the site we developed with them had the same flaws as the previous one.
You understand the power of this knowledge week after week, and you haven’t done a single test yet: that is the subject of the next few lessons.
The Google Tag Manager course in the mini-degree taught me how to professionally set up Google Tag Manager to really measure performance and how to avoid mistakes. The course, like the Google Analytics one, is really in-depth: if you want, you can basically do everything yourself.
Then I learned how to build user personas with data and surveys: I already knew how to build buyer personas and my training was already in-depth, but the 47-minute lesson still revealed new ways to improve the profiles. The Google Analytics audit helped me review what I have learned and plan a sept-by-step audit of the Google Analytics set up in our new website: I am ready to talk to the consultants we called for the set up. I would not want to be them, right now, and meet a client like me, who already has a long list of requirements because he knows his shit.
Finally, the heuristic evaluation course shows you how to analyze a website and make a million optimizations based on proven frameworks. Every time a take a course in the mini-degree, I go back to the office and tell people “we need to redo the landing page”, or “we need to revise the hero section!”. It gives you power and you understand that you have two new superpowers: a lot of know-how on the psychology of websites and buyer personas, and a lot of know-how on how to test your hypotheses and improve. Always improve. Boy, it feels good.