Recently, one of our regular readers blogged about testing with Google Website Optimizer (GWO).

In the discussion thread, a respondent worried that he may not be able to use GWO because his company’s website has a database-driven content management system. He described himself as a “perfectionist” and it didn’t settle well that content was somehow taken “out” of his site and hosted on Google. Further, one of his company’s consultants commented to him that GWO just “isn’t useful” for a complex database-driven site.

First off, we can tell you from experience* that his consultant is mistaken. (See explanation here.)

Secondly, everyone thinks their own site is complex. Everyone. (Just like everyone thinks their kid is cute enough to be a model for Gap Kids.) But ecommerce sites are pretty similar — and simple. It goes something like this:

Get customer to site
Display product to customer
Help customer decide to buy
Accept her money with a thank you
Ship out the goods

Customers don’t care if what we have behind-the-scenes is simple or complex. All the customer cares about is how simple and enjoyable — or not — the experience is for them.

Now, back to the issue of perfectionism. This fear of taking an incremental step lest it turn out wrong, even if the step is toward improvement, seems to evoke fear, dread and a certain “deer in the headlights” mentality.

Ever hear the adage, “Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong”? It’s a great way to think about testing and improvement of any kind, because it deals with the fact that the first step toward improvement always “feels” the hardest. It speaks to the moment when you’re most susceptible to false objections like “It’s too complex!” or “That’s inefficient!”

Let’s get those first steps out of the way. Let’s embrace being wrong, because we will almost surely learn some way to improve. The fact that the improvement won’t be immediate or perfect just isn’t a viable reason not to try. Asking for it to be perfect first and always is a perfect recipe for “never”.

If your company does, say, $5m/yr online and you can raise the conversion rate from, say, 4% to 5% (a 20% lift) because of your testing with GWO — or any testing tool for that matter — you just added $1 million ($5m x 20%) to the bottom line. If I were a CEO and found that so-called perfection was costing me $1m/yr in lost revenues, plus employee salary, I’m pretty sure I could find less expensive, less perfect employees.

I wonder, just how many companies out there are paying millions of dollars a year for perfectionism? And how many imperfect employees, freed from this apotheosis, consistently deliver better results for their companies and their customers?

Could this be why three quarters of online retailers don’t test even though it’s free?

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*FutureNow is an Authorized Consultant for Google Website Optimizer.