I look at my Google Analytics every single day. I find it so fascinating to see all the data, figure out what it means, and try to find interesting patterns. The other day, I did a comparison of site visitors versus bounce rate, and I had a moment of celebration because my bounce rates went from 46.5% to 1.90%!!! If you don’t know what a bounce rate is, it’s a measure of how many times people literally come to your site’s homepage and then leave. It’s just like real life how sometimes you pick up a book, read the first paragraph and put it back down. Or when you watch the first 10 minutes of a movie and turn it off because it just didn’t make sense to you. For a more detailed explanation, check out the post Bounce Rate Demystified from the Kiss Metrics blog.
I think and write a lot about the power of story to influence your product. I really believe that in order to create a great product, you first have to have a great story. It was so fun to see the impact that re-writing my story and re-launching my website had on the people coming to my website.
For the longest time, the bounce rates on my site hovered around 45.6% … I know, I know, pretty bad. Ok, really bad! I created my old site sometime in 2005 and hadn’t really been proactive with it except for a few in frequent blog posts and articles. As for the bounce rate, I just accepted it, and didn’t really put any effort into trying to change it because I knew that for lasting change, I’d have to re-do the whole thing so that it had a better backend, so I could spend less time maintaing it and more time actually writing! And doing all that just seemed daunting to me at the time.
Fast forward to the fall of 2012. After deciding to pursue working for myself as a user experience designer and consultant, I took one look at my old website and realized that it was finally time to start fresh. The biggest influence in this was realizing that I needed to edit my story. Previously, my website wasn’t telling a bad story, but it wasn’t very interesting. It was more like a bunch of stand alone essays, rather than a thoughtfully woven together series of thoughts and ideas wrapped in authenticity and personality. More importantly, I was losing almost 50% of the people who were coming to my site. And now, working for myself, that meant I was losing 50% of my possible client leads!
With this in mind, I spent a weekend in December re-doing my entire website and at the forefront of my mind, the main thing I was trying to do was ensure that my site accurately represented who I am and what I’m all about. I wanted to be certain that if someone found my website and then met me in person, they would feel like they already knew me. After about a week after I re-launched my site, I realized that my bounce rate had declined significantly, but I thought it was a fluke. But after three months, I can tell that it’s definitely not a fluke at all. Instead of being at 46.5% it is now averaging 1.90%.
This isn’t really about the bounce rate though. This is really about the impact that knowing and effectively communicating your story can have on your product and inherently your brand.
You see, I could have looked at my bounce rate and concluded that it must have been because I needed to change how my site worked … that I needed to rearrange some navigation, or move content around on the homepage, or add a video or something. But, that wouldn’t have made a difference. What I really needed to do was change the perception that people had of why my site existed. Now, when people come to my site there’s no question as to who I am, what I do, and why I love it (at least I hope so!).
So many times, companies to solve their product’s problems through features and functionality instead of taking a step back and realizing that the problem really lies in the content and the context. Maybe the solution doesn’t always lie in another build or release, but instead an edit to your product’s story.
In this video with The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Europe, Jason Goldberg (@betashop) says that having a unique brand personality and engaging with your consumers emotions has been critical to Fab’s success so far. Jason understands that today, the product IS the brand, that today, and those words are interchangeable. And since the two are now one, your product itself must be the story of your brand.
So, next time you are trying to solve a problem with your site or experience, take a step back and stop talking about features you could add, remove, or tweak and instead ask yourself what might be wrong with the story your product is telling and if it fits into the context of the journey that your users are on.