Is there a general underlying theory of optimization that will allow you to improve results regardless of the medium or the business category? Isn’t there more to optimization than learning a set of rules? How can we gain a deep understanding of the optimization process? Is there some way for the average marketer to quickly identify the core psychological problems signaled by an underperforming page?
Optimization experts are proliferating. Books on the subject are multiplying. But as one philosopher observed, “the more words, the less meaning.” We are alternately reprimanded, or encouraged, to religiously apply the new “irrefutable laws of optimization”: Left Nav is the best Nav, use Alt tags with your images, keep the call to action above the fold, minimize the number of required field forms, ad nauseum.
At first, this growing body of knowledge is impressive. And in recent months, I have noticed that my students begin their certification training with a better grasp of the fundamental concepts. One might easily conclude an increase in expertise.
I beg to differ.
Knowing the “what” does not mean that you know the “why,” and if you do not know the “why,” you may not know the “when” – that is you may not know “when” a given rule applies in a given situation. Specific, tactical guidelines are applicable only to specific, tactical problems. Their limitation is in their adaptability. It is not enough to grasp a handful of common rules and then fling them at a poorly designed page. We need a theory that imparts the universal meaning beneath the “rules.”