Oct 31st, 2008 by Rich Page
While you can get some great information about website optimization from blogs, and pick up some great ideas for helping to improve your websites and their visitors experience (like from Future Now), its still no real substitute for some in-depth reading and learning.
Over the last few months I have finally got some time to read some excellent website optimization books, and thought I would do a recap on the best ones out there. Anyone interested in trying to help improve websites should read these great books as soon as possible… so without further ado…
1: Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash
I hesitated about buying this for a while because of the title, and wondered if it would contain limited information – whenever I think of ‘landing pages’, I think of the more traditional definition, which relates to building landing pages specific to paid search or specific campaigns. However, upon reading more about this book, I realized Tim Ash defines a landing page as any page that a user lands on, like a home page or a product page. After realizing that, I gave this book a shot, and I was very pleased.
While it gets very granular at times (even goes into theories), its got some excellent ideas. It covers excellent indepth ideas to test, but also how to bring about a testing culture to your company and co-workers.
Why its so great: It really covers everything relating to improving websites and how they all work in tandem, from website usability to understanding the decision needs of the website visitor, and how they are likely to be thinking. This allows you to think ‘outside the box’ and really help build websites that are truly intune with their visitors true needs. Buy it!
2: Actionable Web Analytics by Jason Burby & Shane Atchison
This book is so much more than just a web analytics book (which it would appear to be judging by the title). In fact, I don’t think the title gives it justice. It really contains a goldmine of information regarding best practices for improving websites, and even how to improve your web business. Its much more than just a book with some great information on web analytics.
Why its great: Its very web business orientated, and offers learnings and best practices from the viewpoint of a successful web business (ZAAZ inc). It explains how to overcome very common issues that are often encountered when trying to improve websites, in particular how to work with a lack of executive support, and how to help convince other teams who doubt and don’t want to co-operate with your improvement and optimization plans and goals. It also contains some great practical advice for working with web agencies, which is a very common practice in today’s age, and how to help prioritize website optimization projects to get the most bang for the buck. Buy it!
3: Website Optimization by Andy King
This Andy King really knows his stuff. His book has a unique angle – it doesn’t just focus on website optimization in the traditional sense, he covers website conversion optimization, how to optimize search engine rankings, and also, even more uniquely, he covers how to optimize website download times (many websites are plagued with this lately, even with the mainstream of broadband).
Why its great: Its a real-eye opener that many website issues are caused by slow loading websites, and how to improve these to help build a better user experience. Its great material to give to web developers in particular, and has some excellent unique perspective that I hadn’t read before anywhere else. And the fact that he relates the theory of ‘persuasion’ to building a visitor-centric website (and even relates it to one of my favorite books of all time – the psychology of persuasion by Robert Cialdini). Buy it!
4: Web Design for ROI by Lance Loveday & Sandra Niehaus
I read this book earlier this year, and did a full review of it. I loved it then, and still use it as a quick resource for ideas and best practices for optimizing webpages. It breaks down how to improve major types of commonly found web pages, from shopping carts, product pages and category pages. Although its not very in-depth, its ideal for someone looking to get a good quick overview of website optimization. Lance Loveday has some great ideas in this book, building on his successful Closed Loop Marketing business.
Why its great: I particularly love how short and sweet (less than 200 pages), and to the point, this book is. But mostly, I love how its geared up to explain how to relate all website improvements to an ROI – covered very well in chapter 3. Its worth buying the book just for that chapter - it makes it much easier to justify making improvements to tech teams in particular – if you can attach a monetary value to the improvements like this shows you. Buy it!
5: The Design of Sites by Douglas Van Duyne et al
This is pretty much the opposite of Web Design for ROI in regards to the depth it goes into. This book is just shy of 1000 pages long! Douglas and team covers pretty much everything you could possibly think in regards to building effective websites, and helping to optimize them to be truly customer-centric (the nirvana of web design). From internal site search, to breadcrumb usage, to link conventions, to navigation methods, its really got it all. It really gives you a great overview of the world of interaction design too (and contains a whole chapter on effective page layout) – every interaction designer should have this book, not just anyone looking to improve websites.
Why its great: Its kind of like an encyclopedia of related patterns for designing great websites and helping to improve them. I’m forever using this as a resource, and its great for trying to give supporting evidence when trying to convince art or developers in particular. The book also has a very good way of linking related content, which is very important given the magnitude of this book. Buy it!
And I just have to give another nod to another more classic book that i’m forever recommending to anyone involved in the world of websites – ‘Don’t Make Me Think‘ by Steve Krug. Even though its years old (but did get a recent up date), his principles ring so true – particularly his ‘Presume all website visitors are stupid’ angle, which really makes you think before building web functionality.
So anyway, that should be enough website optimization reading material to last you quite a while! I know these definitely helped me in my career and even gave me some real eye-opening moments! Does anyone have any other favorite books for helping to improve websites?