Last time, I began discussing the key roles necessary for a successful landing page optimization program. As a refresher, the key roles are:
- Product Manager
- Graphic Designer
- Marketing Manager
- User Experience
- System Administrator
- Quality Assurance Tester
Today, we'll look at the roles of the Webmaster and graphic designer.
Webmasters are responsible for the care and maintenance of your Web site. They maintain the content, control the site organization, and administer the file naming conventions (e.g., for page names and graphical images).
Webmasters make sure that the site doesn't have any broken links, missing content, browser compatibility issues, or improper form handling. They also create and review the Web analytics reports for the site.
Skills and Training
Webmasters commonly come from a programming or technical background (operational focus), or from a creative or copywriting background (content focus).
Webmasters most likely need to approve (or at least be aware of) proposed changes to the site. They will need to provide you with the original page elements, and help you upload the new test versions of all pages and graphics.
They may also be involved in the cutover from your quality assurance environment to the live data collection. Webmasters may also track and monitor your data collection through Web analytics software.
Some Webmasters are very territorial. They like to control exactly how and when changes happen on their site. This mindset can often get in the way of testing, because you're perceived as violating their turf and creating extra work for them. In extreme situations, this can result in stonewalling or even outright denial of access to certain parts of the site.
You'll need your Webmaster's help to download and upload content to the staging portion of your Web server (i.e., one where you can test changes without affecting the live Web site). Ideally, you should be able to transfer files to and from the staging server yourself. But many Webmasters will refuse access (ostensibly for security reasons) and insist on doing it themselves.
Unfortunately, during quality assurance testing, numerous uploads may be required to get rid of all known bugs and problems with your test implementation. If your Webmaster is uncooperative or busy, this can drag out your implementation schedule considerably.
Webmasters are also in charge of policing the style guides and naming conventions for the site. They can be very particular about file naming conventions and HTML coding standards. This can hold up testing if not addressed ahead of time.
Because Webmasters are often involved in the testing (and may even be in charge of it), it's always a good idea to get their active cooperation. The best way to do this: arm yourself with information ahead of time, follow procedures, and communicate clearly throughout. Ask for design guidelines, style sheets, procedures, and Web coding conventions. Address exactly what content changes will be tested in your written test plan. This should include the names and locations of all files and content involved.
The graphic designer is responsible for creating all graphical elements of your landing page.
Skills and Training
Typically, graphic designers will have an artistic background in the visual arts, including drawing, painting, film, animation, and photography. Some will have had additional training in production graphic design for business. They may also have had additional training specifically in Web design and related graphics, photo editing, animation, video authoring, and Web design software packages.
You'll likely need the involvement of a graphic designer for your landing page testing. They can create individual graphical elements such as pictures, buttons, navigation menus, and rollover images. Some of these changes are simple (e.g., changing button text or background colors). Other changes may involve a complete redesign of your landing page and its layout.
Graphic designers may also be needed if your test plan calls for special interactive content (such as comparison shopping guides, product demonstrations, and software wizards).
Graphic designers usually have an artistic bent. This can mean that they're more concerned with self-expression than the goals of the business. In their need to keep themselves amused, they often try to work on fun projects or turn routine assignments into artistic outlets.
Unfortunately, this tendency can be at odds with the goals of landing page testing.
Internet visitors often respond best to stark landing pages on which visual distractions are kept to a minimum. You must keep tight control over your graphic designers. Use the yardstick of "is it absolutely necessary?" to determine if design elements should be included or emphasized. It's often a good idea to test the complete removal of existing graphical elements.
The same applies to the use of more subtle color treatments. Bold ones may look more "interesting" to you, but plain ones are often less distracting to the visitor.
Anything that draws visual attention on the page (other than your primary call-to-action) should be questioned. Instruct your graphic designers to unclutter the landing page.
Emphasize key elements by toning down the surrounding page, rather than by making them even bolder to compete with other graphical elements. The same applies to the use of animation, sound, video, or fancy interactive demonstrations.
To get your approval for inclusion in the test plan, graphic designers must show you that their proposed visual solution is the only acceptable one that accomplishes the business objectives and supports the desired outcome. This is a high hurdle to surmount.
An alternative approach is to allow one "artistic" option for some test plan variables. Who knows, it may even end up being part of the best-performing recipe. After all, this is the whole point of testing.
Next time, I'll continue examining the remaining key roles of your landing page optimization dream team.
Meet Tim Ash at Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.
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