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Wake Up Marketers! User Engagement is Addition by Subtraction

Let’s face it. Marketers love to add. We love to count visits and tally leads. A marketer myself, I know this first hand. I’m always adding something. And, when things go wrong, the first instinct for many a marketer is to, you guessed it, add.

  • Traffic to the blog is down? – Add more content!
  • Insufficient email marketing results? – Add new offers! Add more contacts!
  • Bounce rates are too high? – Add live chat! Add another widget! Add that hot new engagement boosting plug-in!

Adding works! Well, most of the time. The astonishing number of vendors, widgets and software we marketers leverage to solve numerous problems proves this point. Yet, when it comes to some challenges, like user engagement, our natural instinct to add may be completely off-base.

Here’s why. The marketer’s propensity to add pushes extra weight onto web applications. In terms of page assets, web apps are extremely overweight; average page weight increased 15% in 2014 alone. Bloated apps have slow load times and poor user experience. As a result, conversion rates plummet dramatically. So, wake up marketers! It’s time to do some math.

Advanced Marketing Math: How to do Addition by Subtraction

Essentially, marketers have created their own worst nightmare. The very tools used to increase app productivity can, in fact, do the exact opposite. Good news: there’s a solution, but it’s not easy. You have to learn how to do addition by subtraction. Here’s how it’s done.

1. Understand your problem: Start with the raw numbers. Leverage testing to understand the composition and performance of pages. Free tools like Pingdom and www.websitetest.com will give you insight into your application performance. There are certain key metrics you absolutely need to track and analyze regularly.

2. No shortcuts: Okay, my pages are heavy. Wouldn’t it be easy to just strip down an application and make it lightening fast? Well sure, but users demand fast performing pages and dynamic content. Weighty assets like images and 3rd party plug-ins for social media are expected by users. An engagement solution needs to solve for both dynamic content and performance.

3. Addition by Subtraction: Thus, we are left with the challenge: reduce the number of assets on our application and lighten the load without sacrificing dynamic content. This is the tricky part! Here’s how it is done.

  • Compress Images: Large images are frequent culprits behind slow page loads. A compressed image is smaller, thus easier to download and faster to load. Compression can be done in multiple ways. Here’s a great article from Yottaa on image compression best practices.
  • Clean up JavaScript: JavaScript is crucial to every dynamic app, but it needs to be optimized for performance. Reduce the number of JavaScript requests and minify Javascript to lower file size. These steps ensure JavaScript is lean and efficient. Also critical to optimzation, ensure JavaScript runs asynchronously, that is, parallel with other code. Asynchonous loading prevents script errors from stalling the entire download process in the browser.For a more detailed guide check out, How to Reduce JavaScript and Minify Request to Impact Siter Performance
  • Utilize Delay or “Lazy” Loading: Lazy loading is a simple concept that is difficult in practice. Your end user does not require application content in its entirety to begin interaction. Lazy loading sequences application delivery within the critical rendering path to send only necessary content first. Then, as the user begins interaction, secondary content continues to load in the background. The user is unaware content is segmented, but percieves the entire app to be blazingly fast. The difficulty here is that you must understand each and every user’s unique context to master this technique.

4. Ask the teacher (IT): Most marketers are going to get stuck. Ask for help. Your IT department can help guide you. It is critical for a modern business to achieve IT and line-of-business alignment. Without seamless collaboration user engagement will suffer.

Curating a successful user engagement strategy is a constant battle. It requires us to stop being marketers and instead walk a mile in the user’s shoes. The most successful user experience models are simple, so avoid the temptation to keep adding and adding. The next time you feel that urge to add, do some math and weight cost vs. benefit. Subtraction might be your answer.


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