The Space of Management – by Anders Ibsen
When Kristoffer Ewald and I were producing The Milk in the early spring of 2005 we were considering a few metaphors of doing the strategic placement of elements on a website. We knew that a lot of traffic didn’t equal a lot of conversions and therefore we needed to rethink the analogy of the supermarket or even better – IKEA.
We all know that going to IKEA means that we buy a little more than we expected when entering the shop. Why? Because they master the discipline of Space Management. When you walk around inside an IKEA shop you will be lead around by the aisles and arrows that are painted on the floor. Have you ever considered what happens if they change the direction of a floor-arrow? Does the behaviour change? Yes, it does. People actually follow the direction of the arrow and if IKEA need to sell more bed linen all they should do is to point an arrow towards the bed linen section. Simple? - And then not.
The picture is clear when considering physical shops – The Milk is always at the very back of the supermarket because most people are willing to walk all the way to the end of the store to get the milk. On their way they will pass all the special offers at the end of the aisles and the impulse stuff at the checkout.
Our theory was that we could do the same at the internet – not placing the most important stuff at the end of the store – but doing the strategic placement. We call it Online Space Management and we invented the term – just for the record. That’s why we called our web analytics and usability company The Milk – to tell the story that no one forgets.
Think about it – if you can increase your sales by 5-10% by placing your elements strategically, what is the impact on a yearly basis? Online sales are exactly as sensitive to optimization as offline sales. Online Space Management is exactly as important as the offline twin – the difference is that you can measure the efficiency almost instantly and that makes you able to do the changes almost constantly. But remember the old saying – “if it works don’t fix it”. Do not make changes without knowing your usability or for that sake your goal.
We have examples of increasing sales up to 281% in average throughout a 6 months period. Doing the design of the pages meant that we needed to align them with the company’s strategy and considering which products that made high profit margins. Optimizing for products that didn’t paid off was meaningless – but how should we know if we didn’t analyzed the business and aligned the usability for with the business strategy. Just as you do in Space Management. Although this discipline is very far from the daily work of a web designer, you will need to get aligned with the economy of online sales to keep up the good work. Aesthetics is just not enough these days. Online Space Management is the key and a rock solid way of structuring your website.