Optimisation? Where?

Our Optimisation Manager wants me to put some code on our website so we can do some visual optimisation testing. Having this installed on the site would enable us to deliver different versions of the same page to different users to find out which version performs better. I’m a big believing in testing and optimising, but right now I don’t have the time to work on getting the code installed, tested and rolled-out, and even after that is done I wouldn’t have the time to run effective tests and certainly don’t have the budget to implement any changes that result from the test. I explained all of this to our Optimisation Manager.

The next point was, can we at least put the code on so we can serve a message to users on old browsers to say the site is better viewed in an up-to-date modern browser? I replied. ‘How many visitors do we get using an out-of-date browser?’, and no one can give me an answer. To me, that makes this piece of work smell even more like doing-work-for-the-sake-of-it-just-because-its-on-someones-to-do-list without really appreciating the costs vs. benefits and other impacts and implications.

So, with me having said ‘No, it isn’t going to happen until next year.’, she went to another person who she thought might be able to put the tags on the site but might not have thought about all the extra implications. I respect that. That’s probably what I would have done. Of course, that person came to me and I explained the reasons why we shouldn’t do it at the moment.

All of this made me question where are/should we be optimising? Doing a piece of work that enables you to improve the click-through rate on a banner but costs more in development and time than you would ever get back in sales seems to be optimising in the wrong place. I’m a big believing in testing and optimising but it needs to be part of a bigger strategic approach to really yield proper benefits.

It also made me think about how people in organisations achieve goals, and sometimes try to achieve their own goals without sufficient consideration of the bigger picture. I wonder if I ever do that. I think I try to consider the bigger picture and work through all the steps of a process before implementing any changes, but do/can I think of everything? This is another one of those challenges from working on a big and complex organisation. But what’s the solution? More big picture thinking, sharing and understanding? More engagement with other teams about the business and projects roadmap so they can see what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, what we’re achieving and where things fit into the bigger picture? All of that takes time, and probably wouldn’t change the goals a person is trying to achieve, so I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know we’re a few months away from doing any visual testing.