Change is Quick, Results Take Time

May 30, 2016

A few weeks back, I took a break and watched Freakonomics, a documentary based on the book with the same name. Even if you’ve already read the book, I’d recommend taking the time to watch it – it’s excellent! One of the things they address is our inability to see what’s actually in front of us; to see the big picture.

In the film, they talk about how the city of New York saw a decline in crime in the 1990’s. There were many possible explanations as to why the decline may have happened – a larger police force, higher prison populations, the success in the war on drugs. Steven Levitt believes that the key reason actually happened 20 years earlier.

Levitt claims the major factor may be that in the late 1970’s abortion was legalized in the United States. The drop in crime could simply be the fact that the people who would have committed the crimes simply weren’t born.

But wait? What does this have to do with user experiences?

I was recently working with a small startup to improve their signup processes. We did a full visual redesign as well as streamlining the user’s signup process. As the site launched, everyone was eager to see what the response would be.

Around the same time, I heard back from a client that I had worked with a couple of years earlier. They let me know that their project had seen a 900% increase in conversion. 900%! I was feeling on top of the world. I am the conversion mastermind!

Soon the results for the startup’s project came in and, it turns out, we didn’t see that magical 900% increase. In fact, we saw a DECREASE in conversions! I was speechless. Had I lost my conversion mojo?

Had I lost my conversion mojo?

While the jury was out on my mojo, I had some time to give it more thought…

Just because we can make changes quickly, we assume that results will be just as fast. That often isn’t the case. Real success is often found through patience and being confident in the changes that were made. Sure, the technology allows us to adjust anything almost instantly, but human behavior takes time. Allow your users the time to adjust to changes and to accept them as the norm. You don’t want to react too quickly as that may just “reset the clock”.

Creating great user experiences takes time and requires constant well thought out iterations. The first iPhone sold roughly 6 million units during its first year whereas the iPhone 6/6+ sold more than 240 million. How can we explain that huge difference? It has less to do with the product than the user’s willing to accept the change. The original iPhone was a revolution. It introduced us to the multi-touch screen and a new way of interacting with our data – consumers weren’t quite ready to commit and invest. Human behavior took time.

After some time, we continued to improve the startup’s signup process. It turns out that along with the redesign, they had simultaneously decided to cancel all marketing – which obviously affected conversions. Maybe I didn’t lose my mojo after all. Onwards and upwards!

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