More on Tweaking

My previous post got more mail than just about anything I’ve ever posted before.

As a writer, I’m used to working with editors. A copy editor is a freelancer who fixes my missspellings, my commas and my grammar. A line editor is someone who makes more aggressive changes, adjusting sentences or paragraphs without substantially altering their meaning. And every once in a while, a real editor, who tells me the truth about my writing and encourages me to discard whole chapters or change the rhythm of what I’m working on.

What I found fascinating about the email I got is that a large number of web people are still hung up on the technology side, on getting the code just right and, to use the analogy, the typesetting, not the words. The reason for this is simple: there’s a lot of horrible web coding going on. There are huge gains to be found by overhauling a site and getting the invisible stuff right.

But that’s not the opportunity I was talking about. Instead, I’m talking about turning an arrogant checkout into a useful one by turning off the button that automatically resets to opt in to the spam list every single time I return to the checkout. Or changing the size of the product photo from 144 pixels wide to 500, because making the product the star can triple clickthrough.

This is stuff tweakers know because they do it every day. Because they test and they measure. This is high return on investment knowledge, because it can take hours, not weeks to implement and test.

For example, a small businessperson named Dave writes in and says,

"our website is ok for an electronic sign . . . but its a “factory model” . . . as we maneuver through the curves any business experiences I want to accelerate through those turns because of the edge tweaking provides but I don’t want to get into a complete over-haul to do it … my idea of a “tweaker” is the person who takes us beyond the “factory model” to continue your car and garage analogy . . . someone who says  STOP using this its not working and here’s why START using this it does work and here’s why CONTINUE using this and here’s why. . ."

Tom says, "My wife and I hired a designer who was a “tweaker.”  She didn’t come in the way most decorators do, with a whole design scheme and lots of new furniture.  She took what we already had, pointed out a few targets of opportunity, moved things around and added a few key elements, and for almost no money gave our house a whole new feel.  It took a couple of days instead of weeks."

I got plenty of people pointing out that they can’t make a living selling to people like Dave and Tom. That Dave is too hard to reach, too cheap, too uncertain about what he wants… that Tom needs too much handholding.

My response is that it’s not just Tom or Dave. There’s no way Amazon or Eddie Bauer or someone running for the Senate is going to overhaul their site. Certainly no way they’re going to do it every four weeks. It’s too scary. Too disruptive. Too time consuming. Does every site need tweaking? NO, most need an overhaul. But hey, there’s still a lot of sites left that need a tweak, not construction.

The opportunity, as the web becomes more sophisiticated and CSS gets implemented more often, is to figure out how to tweak a page while it’s running and get 2% better response from that page. 2% isn’t a lot–until you multiply it by a million page views.

My original point of the post was that I was looking for a tweaker for a specific page that we haven’t yet launched at Squidoo. The mail I got, though, made it clear that I wasn’t the only one.

I think this market problem isn’t going to solved by a bunch of hungry tweakers making sales calls. Instead, I think those that need tweaking will go out and find the tweakers. So, that said, I’ve started a lens on tweakers (it’s a unvetted collection of people I heard from) and even better, a Squidoo group on tweakers that will allow anyone who wants tweaker business to build a lens and tell the world about what they do. Now, instead of sending me mail about your tweaking services (stop, please!) you can build a lens and reach a lot of people who are looking for you. In the meantime, I’ve got a ton of really cool people to contact about our future stuff. Thanks.