In a text conversation my cousin recently used the phrase "CBA", text slang for Can't Be Arsed, meaning she couldn't be bothered to perform an action. A more mature meaning for the acronym is Cost/Benefit Analysis, though arguably both meanings are similar in the context of user behaviour.

User behaviour can be frustrating. You provide all the content, services and opportunity they could want and you’re rewarded with them often avoiding long forms or filling inaccurate data that messes up your reporting.

A huge amount of time, resource and budget is spent on getting these users to visit your web site in the first place, so it’s really important to make sure they do something of value once they arrive.

Your audience isn’t lazy or fickle, but they do perform a cost/benefit analysis when deciding to interact with your site. If something is too much in cost and too little in perceived benefit, users will avoid it, find a workaround or go elsewhere.

A clear example of this can be seen in online recruitment by comparing the conversion rates of creating a job alert with uploading a profile to a database.

A profile upload requires more work than setting up a job alert, yet job alerts have more of a tangible benefit. Having the latest jobs sent directly to your inbox every morning is appealing for a jobseeker, more so than being placed in a database with thousands of others. 

Cba Image

Comparing the average conversion rates for different tasks on a job board illustrate the cost/benefit judgements being made, with the average Jobs By Email setup conversion being over ten times higher than profile uploading.

Given the above, you have two opportunities to increase your site conversion by focusing on the cost/benefit analysis users perform.

1/ Reduce the cost

Reducing the perceived cost of an interaction is about good product design, removing redundant pages, and considering what data you need to collect. Information collected should be limited but valuable, as this reduces the amount of work a user must do when presented with an action.

Decisions on what data you collect will stem from your business objectives, so in online recruitment that might be data to boost applications, in a network it might be data to boost member growth.

Factoring this can have a large impact on your conversion rates and minimise the amount of redundant or inaccurate data collected.

See Defining a Data Strategy for more information on this point.

2/ Communicate the benefits

Communication and marketing often comes down to describing tangible benefits that are easy to understand. If you sign up for a JBE you will get jobs. It’s a simple and easy to understand message providing items that your user wishes to receive. 

What are the tangible benefits of being in a profile database? Employers will contact you directly? You will be headhunted? It is edging towards the idea of selling hope, which has it's place within marketing but can be harder to quickly attract conversion as you have to combat a user's own doubt.

Selling hope is not a new concept, it’s something that many businesses have been utilising for years. A classic example is gym membership, often selling the hope of losing that weight. Another would be dodgy psychics, selling the hope of speaking to the long lost loved ones, though they’d only express surprise at how much weight you’d put on if successfully contacted.

In recruitment hope is around progression, salary, work life balance, a new start. Educational courses and qualifications prefix that career hope with interest, qualification and understanding. A community or network can reinforce hope with the feeling of inclusion, worth, being listened to, being part of something – we are, after all, a social species.

There are countless examples of where just changing text on a button can have significant impact to user interaction by factoring in good communication and good site cost reduction.

To summarise:

  • Remove barriers to interaction
  • Consider what information you need to collect
  • Always tie a benefit to data capture
  • Focus on your core goals, what users should be doing for you
  • Use language that sells the benefit not the feature 
  • Always think about how your user is running this cost/benefit analysis on your site
  • AB Test different messaging to work out the best way to communicate benefits


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