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The web site major update effect - effect on sales

Whenever you do a major update - it will have a negative effect for a week

     

lgn

3:22 pm on Jan 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I have just done my third major website update.

I have noticed, that even if you do updates for the better, it will have a negative impact on sales for a week or so, before a major rebound.

Its also like, a customer comes to your site for the forth or fifth time, ready this time to buy, but suddenly, OH Gosh, the web site has changed. Im scared. After a few more visits, they feel confortable again with buying.

I have noticed this effect a few years back when, we first started taking credit cards online. Our sales actually dropped for a week.

When we made our website more friendly to Americans (ie USA prices, vs making them do the math on the Canadian Dollar). Our sales dropped for a week.

And just recently, when we made some improvements for easier navigation and readability. Our sales dropped for a week.

After a few weeks, sales were higher than ever before, but it sures scares you when you do something positive, and you see sales drop.

I wonder, if this is just specific to my industry, or have others have seen this effect?

3:41 pm on Jan 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'll have to let you know in a week, since I'm in the process of overhaul. It definitely worries me a bit.
3:48 pm on Jan 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'm not sure if updates would have a negative effect on sales. In my opinion, the effect of good changes should be positive unless you are doing MAJOR changes like changing file names, the navigation and not accounting for 404's.
4:08 pm on Jan 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Do you put up a prominent announcement when the changes take place? Like a "What's new at oursite.com" page, linked to from the major entry points?
Or perhaps do a little poll: how do you like our new xyz?"

lgn

5:03 pm on Jan 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

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We don't do any major announcement or do any surveys. We just change the site. The site is modified on our test server, and the site goes live all at once, and our error log is clean.

Our sales always rebound to a higher level, a week or two after the changes.

I have a high percentage of woman that shop at my site. Maybe that is the factor, as us men never notice changes unless it hits us on the side of the head :)

5:41 pm on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Ign, we do the same.

I feel that people can be wary: after all it takes time to see if the basic offer has changed / or is changing after the update (price, delivery, service).

Best thing is to not mention the changes and crack on optimising your new site for sales.

6:15 pm on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It has been my experience that users hate changes. I guess it's because there is cost inherent to learning new navigation system, getting used to new ways of doing things etc.

Every change has some reason behind - and users tend to accept it better if you explain it well.

Therefore, if the upgrade is not trivial, I opt for making it an "event". I pre-announce it a few days before it happens, create a bit of hype (press release etc.), make "what's new" guide, and then I ask for feedback after the first few days.

I think users prefer it this way. It has positive collateral effects - people from time to time mention the upgrade (every upgrade means a few new incoming links from personal pages, blogs,etc.) With a bit of luck some press coverage may be obtained, too.

These steps tend to reduce or eliminate completely the temporary negative effect caused by the resistance to change.

6:47 pm on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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People don't like change. They discover what your format is, get comfortable with it and find their way around. Change is never good if you want to keep your repeat business. I learned that the hard way when I changed the URL to a page which (unbeknownst to me) had been linked to by several important sites in my industry. (I don't have the Google toolbar because I am using a Mac).

A few things I learned in Marketing 101 (way back when) was that you never change existing stuff unless it no longer exists. Rather than just deleting a page, tell the customer that the product no longer exists and they will be automatically redirected to the product list page ... or hit the back button on the browser to return to the page they just came from.

Using a "born on" date and "last modified" date is a good idea. When someone looks at the page and goes, "What?" ... they can quickly see, "Oh, they changed it yesterday!" This helps people with orientation. Otherwise, they begin to mistrust themselves, scratch their heads and say things like, "I could have sworn that I saw ...

2) Do not under any circumstances (unless someone is breaking your arm) change the url of a page where people go to find your basic information. Things like subdirectories and general information pages should remain constant as they are the most often book marked pages apart from the index page.

When we made our website more friendly to Americans (ie USA prices, vs making them do the math on the Canadian Dollar). Our sales dropped for a week.

3) Different currencies can be a major problem. I didn't want to provide price pages for various currencies, so I got around the problem by stating "Prices shown are in US dollars. If you would like help to convert your currency into US dollars, please use this handy currency converter at XE.com. (Its quite handy).

Changing your basic navigation is a major problem and can really throw people for a loop. I don't know how you get around that one if it has to be done in a hurry.

I know I personally hate it when web sites introduce sweeping changes across the board. I think if I were going to redo my navigation, I would likely do it over an extended period of time in order to let people get used to the "minor" changes rather than a slew of major changes all at once.

My pet peeve for almost all web sites is poorly thought out navigation processes. If I have to click more than twice to end up where I want to be, I generally leave the site. Its too much like work!

{edited for missing word)

[edited by: Liane at 7:13 pm (utc) on Jan. 20, 2003]

7:09 pm on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Our sales went up after a major update in November. We set up redirects so that search engine links and bookmarked pages would go to their correct place.

I can see the point made about people becoming disoriented when they have become familiar with a page. It probably depends on how big a ticket item (or complicated) you are selling. Our site sells fairly basic stuff so people visit and they either buy or they don't.

If your update is good enough, you should gain enough interest to overcome any negative effects.

8:05 pm on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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excellent point about the "Last Modified" date Liane, very good idea. shall be implementing on our next update.

is there any problem from the search engines point of view in putting redirects on old page locations that point to new page locations?

i always believed that redirects were to be used only as a last resort

gsx

9:15 pm on Jan 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Liane, If I have to click more than twice to end up where I want to be, I generally leave the site.

Now, that's a bit harsh! But I know what you mean, if after two clicks I feel as though I don't know where I am going, I go elsewhere. If the site is simple and after a couple of clicks I understand the navigation logic - I will stay because I know what to generally expect from the site.

2:55 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Once you have spent time searching for what you want, you expect to get there by clicking on that link. its possible to get to a general page and then a sub directory ... but after that, I want to see the info I was looking for!

Navigation is (in my opinion) the heart and soul of any web site. There is no reson to not be able to find what you are looking for in two clicks or fewer. After that, I feel a wave of nausea coming on which tells me that all the webmaster wants me to do is see every darned page of his site! :(

Case in point:

Lets suppose I want to buy a futon sofa bed (which I recently tried to do) ... I do my searches (on Google), refine them when I find I am searching for something too broad and I finally start getting what I want.

I arrive at the site and not necessarily on the homepage. I want to see photos of the products, prices, fabrics, accessories, etc.

I spent an hour on one site, after clicking at least 2 dozen times to find out the various bits of info I needed, I still had some unanswered questions. I soon discovered there was no e:mail address to contact the company ... only a phone number! (They were using a shopping cart system).

I am not going to spend hundreds of dollars calling various companies in the U.S. to ask lord knows who about a particular sofa bed. The liklihood is that there are few employees there who are just order takers and know nothing about the hundreds of products they have listed on their site. I ended up leaving in total frustration.

I finally found a site which listed "almost" everything I needed to know on just two pages. I still had some questions there as well, so fired off an e:mail. Five days (yes [b]5[/] days) later, I got a partial response. I sent another e:mail asking for the missing info. I rec'd three responses yesterday. I again e:mailed asking for the missing info and am still waiting for the most important answer to be supplied.

If this doesn't work out, I am going to jump on a plane and fly to Miami. I'll spend two or three days in Miami, buy all the stuff I need and fly home.

It is clear to me that if you can't find what you are looking for, have the majority of your questions answered within two or three clicks ... it is best to go to a brick and mortar store to do your shopping.

I don't think its harsh at all. I just helped a friend buy a brand new, $10,000.00 plasma tv (he's rich) over the internet. It is already here and its exactly what he wanted!

I started hunting for a sofa bed the same day and still can't get any joy!

Navigation is the key. Keep it simple and keep it tight. That's my best advice if anyone wants to sell to people like me! :)

3:06 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>is there any problem from the search engines point of view in putting redirects on old page locations that point to new page locations?

In the instance of moving a page somewhere permanantly, a permanant redirect is the right way to deal with it.

>>If I have to click more than twice

Agreed. I'll give 'em three though;)

6:19 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>In the instance of moving a page somewhere permanantly, a >>permanant redirect is the right way to deal with it.

Birdman, at the moment for moved pages like that we have a custom error page that automatically redirects to the home page. Is this an advisable way to do it?

10:07 pm on Jan 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This is a great thread - we have been experiencing just this problem - change something on the site, and down go sales before rebounding a week later.

Are you sure it has something to do JUST with users feeling comfortable with the page? Could it not also have something to do with updates of pages on search engine servers?

Afterall, if you were Google, and you knew through spidering that a page had significantly changed, wouldn't you rather give a lower ranking of the "outdated" pages until you were sure the new pages were updated across all servers?

10:04 am on Jan 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Navigation does effect people. I have 2 sites that sell the same products except one has an "easier design" and the other one a "stranger design" and "the easier one" does 2x the sales. :) Im affraid to redesign the poor preformer though, plus im lazy. :)
 

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