I came across Clifford Oravec while researching how best to build and grow my e-book management application, Libreture. Clifford's Epic Guide to Bootstrapping a SaaS Startup from Scratch — By Yourself is an invaluable resource and helped me get my thoughts and plans in order.
Clifford's own application, Tamboo, is a web analytics video system. It records user visits and allows site owners to watch how users navigate and respond to their site. Tamboo wasn't on my list of required analytics software when I was setting up Libreture, but the short free trial provided invaluable information that supplemented my existing analytics, Piwik.
When one analytics package isn't enough
I have always used web analytics to measure basic behaviour on my websites. The sites have been simple articles or lists though, and usually only need to be measured for vanity purposes or to check their usefulness. But applying that approach to a commercial site never provides the right data.
My day job involves managing a large e-learning platform, and analytics has always provided insight into user behaviour and supported changes in site design. It always starts with an assumption, then making small changes that test that assumption. On discovering a change in trend, one that supports the assumption, we move to implement a wider solution.
It isn't the most precise process, but it works well in that particular environment, when cost, resources and capacity are at a premium. However, the process of setting assumptions sometimes needs additional data.
With Libreture, I needed to determine if the homepage was doing its job by helping visitors understand what Libreture was all about. I needed to see how visitors navigated the supplementary pages and whether they got to the sign-up page.
Piwik showed me the flow from the home page, blog pages and supplementary pages to the sign-up form. But that's just plain numbers. I could guess, and test that, but it would cost me time. Some extra evidence would really help. That's when I remembered Tamboo.
Behaviour isn't metrics
When making changes to my websites, I always ask myself:
"What metric am I trying to improve with this change?"
If I'm not doing it to improve a particular number, then why make the change? Also, how would I measure if the change was successful if I didn't know what to measure against?
Well, the metric was sign-ups. That's what I needed to improve. I was getting hits, but not converting them to users. The funnel was simple: Home page - sign-up page.
What was in question was the change itself. What did I need to do to convince visitors to sign-up for Libreture? And whatever it was, I needed to do it quickly. Day Against DRM was coming up. That would be a great opportunity to garner some additional attention and, hopefully, a few new users.
Getting Tamboo up and running was as easy as any other analytics package. Create an account, embed tracking code.
When the first visits started clocking up and the videos appeared. Well, the answer to my problem became obvious pretty quickly.
I have that issue where I can market someone else's product really well, I can promote them and know exactly what to do. That even includes my day job site. But when it comes to my own, personal stuff... not so good.
And that was the problem. There was no decent structure to the home page. It didn't do anything. The proof was right there in the Tamboo videos.
Video after video of site visits showed me the same thing. Someone arrived at the homepage, scrolled around... but didn't click. There was no content compelling them to.
I went back to basics. I did some more research on landing pages and made changes.
The home page was too long. Tamboo's videos showed me users only making it part way down and, I assume (since we still have to work with assumptions here) getting bored. I shortened it.
AIDA is a great model. It may be old, but it still works.
- Attention: Make them aware of your product.
- Interest: Get them interested in your product's benefits.
- Desire: Make them think favourably and desirably about your product.
- Action: Get them to sign-up.
I pared the content down to cover those points. Visitors now see testimonials and what existing users are currently reading, as opposed to long rambling lists of benefits, and features that are coming soon. There are now only two blocks of text beneath the title banner. Both designed to provide relevant information.
Did it work?
Well, users increased by 60%!
Ahem, yes, three more users.
But those users now store 1,336 e-books in their Libreture accounts. They are early-adopters, DRM-free e-book fans and avid readers. Just the people Libreture needs.
It worked. I saw better results through my Piwik analytics and Tamboo's videos. More movement, and more activity. There's certainly a very long way to go, but seeing people flounder around the site really clarified my job: make it clear how Libreture can help readers.
My first milestone is 10 paying subscribers. We're already halfway there. I don't believe we would have those users without changing the homepage and responding to user behaviour.
Numbers is one thing, user behaviour is something else entirely. You can get numbers from any analytics package, but you get behaviour from Tamboo. (That sounds good! I should charge Clifford for that.)
Clifford has also authored a book, based on his Epic Guide and it's available (DRM-free of course) here:
The Epic Guide to Bootstrapping a Startup - By Yourself
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