My Journey with CXL conversion optimization minidegree

7 weeks ago, my scholarship application for the CXL conversion optimization was accepted. I told my few good friends like it was a college scholarship. But it actually was. For me, It was actually better.

I’ve been a professional product designer for almost two years now and before that I was learning and practicing front-end development. My transition from development to UX design was simply because of fascination of the business and psychology aspect of UX design. There was nothing like that in web development, only execution.

Even though Ive been a product designer for not so long (barely 2 years), I’ve hit a plateau. I wasn’t improving and I didn’t find any advanced UX design topics to discover. All the courses were too basic. And I hated the fact that we always talk about the process like it’s the objective of what we do and like it’s the way to create successful products.

In fact, I hated the fact that we always rant about what makes a product successful and user friendly. We, UX designers, have become so egocentric. We always talk about empathy but we don’t really get it. We feel like we’re responsible of every delight a user may experience, after all “user” and “experience” is in our job role. Imagine a doctor with a title “pain relief” doctor.

I can go on and on with what’s wrong with the UX design space.

So I was trying to find something that has real impact. I wanted to design and measure. I wanted to analyze user feedback, gather insights and test my UI so I can let go of that UX designers feeling of “this has to work”.

I didn’t know it has a name: Conversion Optimization, until, I started learning about copywriting. And because copywriting was a huge driver for conversion, optimizers rant about it a lot. I found Peep Laja’s guide in Smashing magazine then I found the CXL blog. I was stunned and humbled.

I’ve known a psychology trick here and there and some best practices to create a good UI.

The missing piece was data.

I didn’t know how to gather it, analyze it or make design decision driven by it.

I explored the CXL conversion optimization after checking many articles there. And I couldn’t afford the 1399$. 2020? Living in a 3rd world country? Starting a new business? That can explain it.

I found out randomly that it has a scholarship. I applied and got accepted few days later.

In my mind this is how the minidegree is divided:

  • The foundation knowledge: Best practices for design and copy, psychology and neuroscience
  • Dealing with data: Using Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager
  • How to run tests and analyze them
  • Make your knowledge into a service (How to run a conversion optimization agency)

I’m still in the second part and it’s a bit challenging for me because I was a designer but never had any data analysis skills.

What was new for me

My best course so far in the minidegree was the copywriting and product messaging course by Momoko Price. I was trying to learn copywriting and on the internet, there’s a ton of tips and tricks, and god bless them: fake gurus. While the tips are great, that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I needed a process. I had one to create a product as a designer. But I didn’t have that for copy.

Now I write copy before even designing anything which I’m convinced is the right way. I have a process from research to writing drafts to polishing and wireframing. What remains was my job for quite a while.

I always hated Lorem ipsum. Sometimes, when we were co-designing interfaces with the client (we did that in a design sprint), my boss would tell me to let copy later. Later? when is that? Later never came and we would ship half good copy (I’m being optimistic).

The challenges of learning conversion optimization

Not only that, the challenge for me was how to introduce this as a new service in my newly created UX design agency. It feels like I’m going to need more time because I still think that the data analysis part is a big learning curve. So I’m going to start with Landing page optimization, a small service that we practice while we get better. I would hate to sell a service while I’m not proficient at it. I hated fake gurus and I ain’t becoming one.

The best way to learn is to apply what you’ve learnt. That’s basic right? I mean duh. And I actually did applied that on our own agency website. I applied Momoko’s price copywriting process and implemented some design tricks I’ve learnt. But still, a huge part of conversion optimization is about analyzing data, creating test hypotheses and split test. But data is meaningless if there’s no or little traffic. So how can we apply what we’ve learnt? should we apply it on our own website? should we create a product so we can get traffic and then apply all the knowledge we got from the program?

Another challenge is that conversion optimization is a service that works best for big companies. A small lift in conversion can be of a big to huge impact for them. For me as a beginner conversion optimizer, what can I do? I don’t have the expertise to offer big companies this service. The problem with small companies is that they’re small. A lift in conversion may be beneficial but is it enough to pay me good money for it? or even just enough money so I can keep playing the long term game and get bigger clients eventually. After all our services are as good as our clients perception of them. We’ve actually been offered a useless premium account of a product if we review the website. Can you believe that? not even a small amount of money, a premium account. Now, you may say, do it to gain expertise and a testimonial but the problem is we can do that especially in these hard times after the pandemic and also, it actually ruins our brand.

The CXL learning journey is really enjoyable thus far and it’s offering the right skills that I need right now. No BS, if you’re a junior, mid level or even a senior UX designer, this minidegree will level up your game even if your goal isn’t to become a conversion optimizer.

I design high quality websites and apps that converts.