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#1 Fold

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 11:09 AM

Hello forums.

I'm wondering if there are any general guidelines on the number of products
that should be visible on a category page before pagination is enforced.

I know that extensive scrolling is generally frowned upon but at the same time I've watched one or two usability sessions where pagination it self seemed to cause problems for users, where they would get lost clicking through multiple pages of products. Assuming thumbnails are kept small so that a page still loads quickly, is there some kind of optimal number of products?

In my specific case there are 6 products in each row, with the first row visible above the fold. I currently have 2 rows on each page, but this is creating many paginated pages and I'm considering expanding each page to display 18 or even 24 products.

#2 cre8pc

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 11:48 AM

There are no firm rules, so the first guiding principle is to truly understand who uses your products and what their habits are.

Searching for auto parts involves more steps than searching for herbal soaps, for example. Auto parts need a bit of pre-sorting and pictures aren't enough to describe them because makes, models and years are factors. Soap can be presented by visuals with far less hassle.

Netshops has a homepage with several rows of products, 4 pics in each, based on a category. This is a highly successful company representing over 150 stores. They do an amazing job.

Overstock.com is another one. You can scroll pages and pages of images with brief descriptions and regular customers are used to that and even welcome it.

Not everyone has the memory capacity to handle a large amount of information at once. You must find the balance between a visual, description, price and call to action prompt (like add to cart, learn more). I wouldn't crowd a page with 3 columns, and the middle one has gobs of products, row after row. There's too much going on in the left and right sides to be distracting.

A left nav column and the rest for products in the main body give you more real estate. Add white space, gutters (horizontal spacing), headings, subheadings, and search fields to help visitors sort by price, category, brand, etc.

#3 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 12:15 PM

... cre8pc ... is correct, it really does depend on the amount/type of information you present.

It will also depend on the "display space" you have... if you site is 800 wide, and you haev the main content in a column of 600px, then you are probably limited to a maximum of 3 items per row.
Worst case scenario, you you can have 1 item per row.

I always view it as base 5 rows, no matter the number of items per row.
This means that you can dispaly a minimum of 5 items, and a probably maximum of 25.

The general trends suggest betwen 10 and 20 though (if you look at most online stores, this seesm to be the common values).


Can you provide a link/exmaple of the info?
If we know what you are presenting, we can advise on how topreent it.
It's not jsut for usability/accessibility, you still need to cover presentation/sale-bility too ;)

Cramming should be avoided, clear divides between items/columns/rows is advised.

so a link if possible?

#4 DCrx

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 02:15 PM

This falls under the category of something I wrote a thread about -- planograms.

While it does depend, it's not as simple at that. First, most web designers never test the layout. Yes, they may track which item sells well -- but not which configuration of how many products are presented on the page. And finally, should all product "facings" be the same size?

Apparently not, as the Petco test I refer to in the thread points out. Tests against the "shotgun" layout prove you can improve response.

#5 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 04:35 PM

Altering the visual or presetation need not adverly affect the quantity displayed.

By all meas, followig the established trends of both marketing and store displays, having "center pieces", "line-up dispalys", "offer focus" and "prime push displays" are more than do-able.

It also has little to do with your orignal question :)

You wanted to know what the "general" was...


So, why don't we take the methodology from store displays, as it's tried, tested and proven.


Take a grid... ease the job and make it squares of 30px.

Now, depending on the allotment of horizontal space your hae, we will be able to get X amount of grid blocks in.
For the sake of simplicity, we'll go with 600px.
Thats 20 blocks.

Now, how much space for a "Regular Item Display" ?
150px?
so thats a Max of 4, with no spacing.

Yet you need to use some form of "gapping" to stop blur, overrun or predeminance.

More problematic is the fact of limited space, so rather than placing a gap between your 150px dispaly blocks, we can simply detract 5px from each side... so our 150px wide boxes will hold 140px content, and 5 either side for "gapping".

Now, we have our Regular - 150px block with 140px content.
It's probably best to apply a little styling to the container for general appeal - this of course relies on the over design, but a simple shift of colour, application of minor graphicsto imply grading or curviture etc. seems to go well.

So, what about Maximised?
Well, if we want more space, then we either deduct an item per row and doule the retail space for the Maximised (thus you get 3 per row, 2 @ 150, 1 @ 300).
That is a simple and standard approach.
Alternatively, opt for 3 per row as standard, add inbetween gapping, and margninally increase the Maximised width.
This will results in a slightly odder display, but no less effective.
A Tertiary approach is Hard Lining - simply aply a different style to draw the eay - where everything else as a subtle gradient fill - the Maximised has a hard colour, reversed styling or simply a solid border.
Alternatively, go for the Label! Simply have a graphics (with Alt), or a positioned text piece that sits ontop of a non-used space of the item dispaly block, "Deal", "Offer", "Recommended" etc.

There, tons of ideas - all industry standard approaches.

Still, the general point is, go for 3 items per row, with a distinct break between row/column.
Contain the items is a sublt visual frame or block of graphic/colour.
what ever the max width of your page, do not exceed 4 times that in scrolling height. I possible, try for 2.5 to 3.
This retains some sort of balance, visual ease and enables fuller display without too much annoyance.

The real harship wil be if your content is dynamic.
You would have to do some careful planning to make sure that altering the styles to make an item more prominent don't look wrong or out of place (slapped in the far bottom right will not be particularly smart).

If anything, follow the F/P visual plan... the most attention on a screen follows an F or P shape, most on the TL/ML, the least on the MR/BL.
So, most prominent sales points should be where the eye goes.


Last resort, main focus could be completely seperated, either placing a specific item at the top & bottom, outside the standard display.
Same principal as the "end of aisle" methodology :)

#6 Respree

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 05:20 PM

If your budget and/or programming skills permit, I like the idea of letting the user decide. If not, think anywhere from 9 (3 x 3) to 16 (4 x 4) would be optimal. I think anything more than that would tend to be too much in one bite, so to speak. Some people may have a preference for that presentation, but I would imagine there would be less time spent glancing at each thumbnail if there were more (like 50 or 100), rather than less.

Example here (see bottom of page)

Edited by Respree, 10 September 2007 - 06:45 PM.


#7 DCrx

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 06:34 PM

If your budget and/or programming skills permit, I like the idea of letting the user decide.


Agree, using A/B split run testing is the mechanism for letting users decide.

#8 AbleReach

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 06:41 PM

I remember a thread where EGOL and maybe Kim were discussing a/b testing, and the amount of images and text on catalog pages. Does anyone else remember such a thing?

#9 joedolson

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 07:05 PM

Don't remember any prior conversation on that subject, but this is definitely one of those key areas of design where user testing is a must.

Different products have vastly different needs. It all (well, not ALL) depends on how much detail you need to know about the product before you can make a reasonable product selection. For some products, you need a pretty good-sized image to really be able to see the difference between it and a similar product. You need accompanying details describing the product with at least 5 or 6 distinctive features, to provide sufficient differentiation.

Other products, you may be able to choose effectively with much less information. However, the REAL clue will only come with user testing: by observing how users work their way through the store.

There are no effective general rules of thumb, practically speaking. There are strong and reliable tendencies to arrange product displays in either list or grid format --- organizing your products at random spread all over the page is _probably_ not very effective.

But then, maybe your site audience is insane... :)

In my specific case there are 6 products in each row, with the first row visible above the fold. I currently have 2 rows on each page, but this is creating many paginated pages and I'm considering expanding each page to display 18 or even 24 products.


At a guess, I'd say you can afford to have more than 12 products on a page. One other qualifying piece of information should be the sheer number of items in a given category: when there are hundreds of items in a category, it's (in my opinion) much easier to organize your thoughts with more per page. If you had 30 items, I'd have no problem with having fewer on a page: 12 would seem quite reasonable.

#10 swainzy

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 08:36 PM

I was just on this site
Peepers.

and after clicking on the catagory I wanted, it showed many pictures and gave me many options on how I want to view these images. I could decide how many on a page, how many across the page, a "sort by". It even has a compare button. The pics came up fast and are big enough for me to see without my reading glasses. ;-)

So, I agree with Garrick and others, let the user have some control/choice. I think people love that.

While the usability experts in this forum might come up with some problems on this site, I could find none as far as usability. It works well and fast.

#11 Rowan

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 03:15 AM

I read a good report by Nielsen Norman Group where they mentioned that people don't mind some extra scrolling if the product images are interesting and useful to look at. However you also have to take into account the time it takes to load each image, I suppose it would be OK if the products loaded progressively down the page.

If you don't have interesting images to show off then people would have to sift through a whole lot of text. It's a lot easier to get lost in a wall of text than a wall of images, so it would make sense to shorten product pages if they don't have interesting/useful pictures.

Also take into account how many pages would be generated, most people are unlikely to go past the 3rd page, but this depends more on your product filtering and server response time.

Edited by Rowan, 11 September 2007 - 03:16 AM.


#12 Adrian

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 04:24 AM

I find it really irritating when I do a search, or look in a category and end up with 10 products per page, but 100+ overall. 10 pages to click through just to look at the options!

Depending on the options, and how they are laid out, I don't have any problem with seeing 50 or 100 products on a page. One slightly longer page load, or lots more slightly shorter page loads, and then trying to remember which page the products you liked were on etc...

If you've got 20 products in a section, I'd say you may as well show the whole lot in one go. It's not a huge number, if you've got 40+, then it'll depend on the product, and how they're being displayed.

#13 DCrx

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 05:06 AM

It stuns me just how little visual merchandising on the web has matured. The basic model for online catalog design is still the vending machine, not store display. More thought has gone into supporting the purchase transaction than ever went into studying shopping behavior.


Relevance-Enhanced Image Reduction: Better Thumbnails is still news for some designers. And you know your industry is in trouble when Jakob Nielsen's advice on visuals is looking good.

Sites like Etsy are coming up with some interesting ideas, like a browse-by-color feature. Not everyone is looking for model number 84754r. You may want to buy something which matches a color scheme in a room, or goes with an outfit you already own. Etsy's browsing options support the shopping behavior that leads to the purchase, not just the purchase in a vacuum.

For example, what happens when you want to compare two or more cameras side-by-side? Are 'megapixels' really big pixels? Of course not -- yet there is more to megapixels than many consumers realize. So how do you rank image quality?

What if you're trying to organize wines for people who've never bought wine before?

The point is, visual merchandising is more than how many products to fit onto a page. Product mix may also boost the sales of all the products on a page. Some online retailers are very good at upsells and cross selling "people who bought this also bought that."

These are questions which should have been thought through a decade back. And any designer should have a dozen options to select from, built into the lowliest free commerce package. Unfortunately all we have is the "What's the usability factor on these DHTML scripts" type posts.

Edited by DCrx, 11 September 2007 - 05:24 AM.


#14 Adrian

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 06:44 AM

Ah I so agree with those comments. Sorting/Listing things by useful criteria, rather than some common denominator that seperates out things that people want together and vice versa.

#15 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 09:45 AM

I like some of the ideas mentioned... but they would surely rely on additional inputs for the producs... such as havig a Size/Colour/Texture field to lookup/compare/search by... and most Catalog/Commerce apps do not have such features.

That said, with a little ingenuity, you should beable to include you ow if your system is flexible enough.

As for the Sort/Search functionality, again, depends on the the nature of the App... but if you can hae pagination, then I guess you can apply filters too (where="" / sort="") - if not, I'd thik hard about usig different systems.

#16 DianeV

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 02:15 PM

Autocrat, I think they're discussion *category pages*, not individual product pages.

As a shopper, what Garrick said — let the user decide.

And what Adrian said: it's irritating to have to click through page after page of product thumbsnails in a category. I'd far rather have the choice to view them all on one page. That allows me to compare the thumbnail views, and I can scroll quickly through them to see if I'm interested in anything. If the shop has a "View All" option, then I use it. I totally love this option (or a similar one: choosing the number of thumbnails that will display on the page from preset numbers - like 20, 40, etc.) when I'm viewing stock photography, or computer parts, or stuff at Overstock.com. (Kim, thanks for the Netshops link; most interesting.)

And what's the big deal about scrolling? I do it when I write letters, and I also do it when I'm shopping. It's not as if the scrollbar is not user friendly enough.

Lastly, there was a study in, I believe, the 90's that said "people don't like to scroll". Point blank, no ifs, ands or buts — and remember: this was in the days of 640x480. Then there was a later study that said, "People don't mind scrolling." Still, the anti-scrolling theory seems to stick around.

I think a little common sense is in order.

#17 AbleReach

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 02:33 PM

Lastly, there was a study in, I believe, the 90's that said "people don't like to scroll". Point blank, no ifs, ands or buts — and remember: this was in the days of 640x480. Then there was a later study that said, "People don't mind scrolling." Still, the anti-scrolling theory seems to stick around.

I think a little common sense is in order.

Yes. And there's a big difference between a little vertical "scrolling" and hunting out the four corners of a site that was built without taking into consideration the user's display resolution.

Edited by AbleReach, 11 September 2007 - 02:34 PM.


#18 DianeV

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 04:58 PM

Sure. I'm thinking that taking into account the specific issues with any particular site is vital.

#19 Adrian

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 05:23 PM

I really don't think vertical scrolling is much of a deal really. I'd rather quickly scroll down a long list of products, than go through several pages to see them all.

Take an example of looking for a Wireless card at Dabs.
I've jsut clicked a few times to get down in the category and filter the choices to see the list of products relevant to me.

Now it's defaulting to 10 products, and telling me there are 25. So that's 3 pages worth. Just to see some wireless cards, where I'm probably most interested in quickly looking over pricing, maybe brand, and the star ratings.

Thankfully they allow me to change the number listed. But if they didn't, it'd be pretty annoying. I rarely find 10 items per pags on Dabs a useful number. For those kinds of listings, I'd start at 50, and have bigger options from there.

#20 DCrx

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 05:33 PM

Of course, some common sense is always to be wished for.

For example, let's say you have industrial pumps. Often you can see one brand, or see all high-volume, high price pumps on the top of the page. Now, yes, many users will scroll. However, I would wonder how many users would assume the prices for the pumps on the top of the page are representative of those below the fold.

Why not have the first column at Low Capacity pumps (1-5 gallons per minute). Middle column Medium capacity (whatever range). Right column High Capacity (at higher price). Also, if you have a popular model, why not test making that factor known to users? Especially when this is not the lowest price unit, such ideas are worth testing.

#21 joedolson

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 05:57 PM

Why not have the first column at Low Capacity pumps (1-5 gallons per minute). Middle column Medium capacity (whatever range). Right column High Capacity (at higher price). Also, if you have a popular model, why not test making that factor known to users? Especially when this is not the lowest price unit, such ideas are worth testing.


In a sentence: because it's harder to program. Not to say that it's impossible, by any means, but most people will tend to produce product pages which are sourced from one data table and formatted in a grid: with a standard table layout, that means your items need to be sorted in rows, rather than in columns. A sorting pattern which requires the first element from one data set, then the first from a second set, then the first from a third set is something that tends not to happen.

It's a good idea, certainly - and there are many ways of accomplishing it; but I'm inclined to suspect that only custom-designed solutions are going to be able to get that kind of a layout. Could be challenging to produce a product set organized in that manner from most e-Commerce packages

#22 Respree

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 05:58 PM

I also like stores that allow you to sort the results using various user input parameters, like high to low (or vice versa), alphabetized listing, ratings, etc.

#23 DCrx

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 06:33 PM

Could be challenging to produce a product set organized in that manner from most e-Commerce packages


Exactly right. That's the vending machine model. Unfortunately, e-Commerce does not start and end with the vending machine.

#24 cre8pc

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 07:18 PM

I'm a scroller. Love to scroll down pages that show me pictures of the product, and the price. Shove related items in there too, and I won't raise an eyebrow if the suggestions are smart.

It's when I have no clue what I'm looking for that I start cursing web designers. Try buying a corvette car cover as a gift for a family member who has one, but you don't know the year or even the model. You know the car is kept indoors but what kind of damage can still happen indoors? Do you get a cover with the Corvette logo? Does size matter? Material?

A page of car covers pictures and prices, row by row, isn't going to sell to the uninformed, clueless gift buyer who wants to get the right thing but has little knowledge or experience with the product.

Point going back to what I said earlier. Know thy target customer/market. Create user personas. Do user testing. A/B split testing on terms and call to action labels. There's never a magic formula, only constant change and analyzing the results :)

#25 DianeV

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 07:41 PM

I like that too, Kim. But it's what Joe says — that it takes a lot more customization to change shopping carts (which are made by web developers, not designers).

Customization is expensive. We can all want what we want, but making a lot of changes to a shopping cart, even just to the sort options, begins to be pretty darned expensive (and I've done it). It also means that you can't so easily upgrade when the time comes (or a vulnerability is found) without going the whole route of customizing the new version.

But, ignoring that, back to shopping carts we like: I'm pretty fond of New Egg's setup. Here's a search for "external hard drive" — notice the various sort options at the top and in the left navbar
http://www.newegg.co...rnal hard drive

#26 Respree

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 07:59 PM

I think far more important than the quantity, is the quality. Search is arguably the most important feature on an e-commerce site, in my view. This is especially important when there are many thousands of products that could be found. Categorization of results is often helpful. Exact matches. One match taking right to the product page, instead of a SERP. Search by product. Search by size. Search by price range. Any all of the combinations above. It really surprises me how little thought shopping cart developers put into search functionality.

#27 DianeV

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 08:08 PM

I agree. That's why I was showing the NewEgg.com site — they've got quite a lot of that.

That said, that type of shopping cart would likely be pretty expensive, and possibly not affordable to many site owners.

#28 cre8pc

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 08:20 PM

Funny you mention Newegg...it's one of Eric's favorites sites :)

I've been getting more sites to review that are incorporating left nav's similar to their's...with all the options. The options for sorting are based on user feedback on how their customers are searching.

Hence, why I keep mentioning targets and user needs. It helps determine presentation.

Customized carts is just about impossible for 3rd party sites plopped onto small and med sites. I feel sorry for these site owners because as Diane says, it's expensive to change them, if you even can. Better to start from scratch with requirements based on one's own business needs, but again, pricey and time consuming.

The layout for Newegg falls into the "distraction" alarm zone, but rather than scream, I try to assume they did testing and are watching conversion rates. Cognitive load and reading disorders come into play for pages that are that busy, but sometimes its the images themselves that help out, rather than annoy.

I tested an automotive parts site recently and compared it with some of their competition. Found it interesting that everyone sorted auto parts in various ways. The ones that FORCED a year befuddled me because unless you knew the exact year, you weren't able to use the search function at all. The searches on just make and model first, and then drill down to year, price, brand, were perfect for someone with limited product knowledge.

#29 DianeV

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 07:01 PM

So Eric has good taste. :blink:

That's pretty interesting, Kim. I can see that all the options might seem a bit overwhelming to some. But I wonder if, like me, people may focus first on the obvious presentation of the products in the content area rather than scanning the side navbar. (Actually, I didn't even notice it until the day I was looking for another way to sort products — sure, I saw that "something" was there but I ignored it until I was looking for possible sort options.)

But it *is* too bad that more software doesn't offer these types of re-sorting options out of the box. That would be one interesting offer from software makers even if the basic software package didn't offer various sort options — plugin sort modules. That would (possibly) mean that upgrading the shopping cart software didn't mean overwriting customized functions.

#30 SEOigloo

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 08:14 PM

However many products you put on a page...make SURE you've got a working search function on the site!

My 2 cents
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#31 EGOL

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 09:12 PM

There are lots of good opinions in this thread and lots of good logic, but Kim pointed to the answer in her first post...

There are no firm rules, so the first guiding principle is to truly understand who uses your products and what their habits are.


Maybe I should spend more time understanding my visitors... but I tend to go straight to the bottom line numbers (which is also understanding your visitors but in a different way.

The bottom line is revealed with analytics. In the end, the numbers speak for themselves. Opinions and logic make great starting points and can be used to test one format against another.

Edited by EGOL, 12 September 2007 - 09:15 PM.


#32 DCrx

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 06:03 AM

Analytics are important, but so is the idea of testing, and having some ideas of what to test. Analytics give you feedback, action in the form of continuous improvement through testing produces analytics ...which then give you a picture of your customers.

The numbers are only a snapshot of your current site, not what your site could be doing -- but isn't. Analytics don't tell you what change to make in order to improve the numbers.

Too many companies see the numbers generated by analytics as carved in stone. They're not. Just because you're doing okay right now, doesn't mean a competitor can't come in and upset the analytic apple cart with some new innovation.

Or, if you're a company like Apple, forget the innovation and just take advantage of the missed opportunities and broken promises of competitors. The reason so few companies react effectively to Apple is because of a mistaken view of what their analytics are telling them. And, based on the numbers in the MP3 player market at the time, it makes sense Apple would simply be just another new player with a vanishing small market share.

Analytics should be regulated by the FDA as a mind altering substance.

Edited by DCrx, 13 September 2007 - 06:34 AM.


#33 EGOL

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 07:22 AM

The numbers are only a snapshot of your current site, not what your site could be doing -- but isn't. Analytics don't tell you what change to make in order to improve the numbers.

Good point.

Analytics should be regulated by the FDA as a mind altering substance.

Maybe, Perhaps there should be minimum and maximum useage requirments? :cheers:

#34 DCrx

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 08:09 AM

Probably, but also minimum daily requirement.

A somewhat related story is a store which experimented (offline) with a nutrition labeling concept which boosted sales. Again, merchandising isn't just about how many facings or slots on a shelf, it's what you do within those slots.

That basic concept holds true both online and off. Analytics show you the numbers, but don't generate the numbers.

Edited by DCrx, 13 September 2007 - 08:12 AM.


#35 cre8pc

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 09:00 AM

The numbers are only a snapshot of your current site, not what your site could be doing -- but isn't. Analytics don't tell you what change to make in order to improve the numbers.


Exactly.

This is why analytics are necessary, where testing fits in and why hiring consultants is important. Usability consultants (or related field) have data on user trends, and often see the results of testing. They provide suggestions for enhancements and changes, and in many cases, find defects not previously uncovered that were effecting functionality. Many experienced designers can take a look and know right away what to repair or test. With them its less guesswork and more lessons learned the hard way :lol:



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