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  • Manfredi Sassoli

A toolkit for optimisation: UPPPP

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Everyone wants more efficiency.

Every company wants a better converting funnel, an app with higher engagement and a product with higher retention. Similarly every company deploys different levels of investments in achieving these: from huge teams to an occasional task carried out by a single individual.

The level of investment is generally correlated with the size of the company. Results aren’t.

I have personally been frustrated with this, as has anyone else in my field of work that I have ever met, (has it happened to you?).

There are multiple reasons why these efforts fail and here are some:

- Poor measurement

- Low volume

- Poor hypothesis

- Poor execution

- Tech failure

- Misalignment in expectations

- Wrong skillset deployed

This last point is one that I’ve really had to learn through experience. At times I found that even great execution led to very small wins.

Why does this happen?

With this piece I aim to explain what not so obvious reason leads to companies failing in these efforts.

With time I have learned that there are 5 distinctively different skills that can help improve the performance of your user experience, 5 tools that can be used to drive your conversion rate up (or upppp). These are:

Ux optimisation

Positioning and copy

Psychology hacks

Personalisation + Automation

Product optimisation

While there are overlaps between these tools and they can be used concurrently, they are all fundamentally different and should be used at different times. What has worked in the past, or for a different product may be completely ineffective now. We need to understand them and know when to use each one.

Here is a brief explanation of the way each tool works.

UX optimisation

UX is a full-on discipline that requires years to master. There are however a set of basic rules, called UX heuristics, that can guide us in the optimisation of the user experience, to at least ensure there are no tragic errors in our delivery. These are:

1. System Status Visibility: Keep users informed about what's happening within the system through appropriate feedback.

2. Real-World Alignment: Design interfaces that align with real-world concepts and user expectations.

3. User Control: Users should have control over the system and be able to undo actions easily.

4. Consistency: Maintain consistency in design elements and actions throughout the interface.

5. Error Prevention: Strive to prevent errors rather than just providing error messages.

6. Recognition vs. Recall: Minimise the need for users to remember information; make options and actions visible.

7. Efficiency: Design for efficiency and make common actions quicker to perform.

8. Minimalist Design: Keep the interface simple and only include elements that are essential.

9. Clear Error Messages: If errors do occur, provide clear and helpful error messages.

10. User Documentation: When necessary, offer user documentation to assist users in understanding and using the system effectively.

While all of these may seem obvious, a good execution of every heuristic isn’t a given and yet they are all likely to impact a product’s performance.

Positioning and copy

What a product does, how we frame it in customer’s minds and we you communicate it will have a huge impact on a company’s performance, sometimes a transformative one.

This change can, (occasionally), be achieved by changing a single line of copy, but behind this small change a lot of work is required.

There are in fact two different skills required to implement high quality work in this area, I have grouped them together because it’s completely ineffective to use one without the other.

Having the right positioning requires a significant product marketing effort. This will include competitor’s research and in-depth customer interviews. It requires quantitative and qualitative analysis. Nailing this can be the difference between your product being seen as a copy of what they already have, (and don’t need), or a solution that will solve a big problem they constantly face.

Communicating this effectively isn’t a given. Any articulate person may achieve a satisfactory result, but a true wordsmith, a copywriter worth their salt, will deliver at a superior level every time.

(To take this to the next level it should also be tied to your brand strategy)

Psychology hacks

The human brain can be fooled and this is where the knowledge of psychology applied to the user experience can really deliver an uplift in conversion rate and engagement. There are numerous cognitive bias that can be leveraged to influence behaviour. These include:

Loss aversion: users are more motivated by avoiding losses than achieving gains. Highlighting what the user would lose can create a sense of urgency, (this is a great match for freemium products)

Social proof: or herd mentality. People follow what others do: testimonials can be a very powerful tactic

Scarcity: this automatically increases a product’s desirability and can create urgency

Reciprocity: free resources and small incentives will increase the likelihood of users reciprocating with your desired action

Anchor pricing: showing different packages at different prices, where one has a much better price/value ratio will help us guide users to pick the bundle we prefer.

There are many more ways in which users’ reasoning fallacies can be used and many can be overlayed on top of others e.g. by giving different price options we also give multiple choices – this can deceive the brain from thinking that decision is which product to buy rather than whether deciding if to buy or not.

Even changing the order of your onboarding questions, or the inclusion of additional unnecessary questions may have a positive impact, (I know it’s counter intuitive).

The ability to spot where the biggest wins may be require an in depth knowledge of psychology, on top of testing skills and commercial acumen.

Personalisation and automation

At a very high level, for large Tech companies, automation tools can be developed in-house: most companies tend to buy an off-the shelf solution. Different software can help in areas like:

- Personalisation: serving different content on chosen or inferred preferences to increase engagement and conversion rate

- Exit-intent pop-ups

- Cart abandonment recovery: automated email reminders

- Product recommendation

Using a third party software does not require in depth skills for execution, but for a company to gain from this investment one must be able to carry out an effective due diligence of different tools in the market and understand if the potential uplift can justify the investment.

Product optimisation

Product optimisation is the work of full-on growth teams who work at the intersection of marketing and product. While they may decide to leverage any of the tools mentioned above, projects in this area tend to be deeper and aimed at increasing the value a product delivers.

This may include the development of a new feature, it may be the developmend of a demo product for free trials, launching a freemium product, or restructuring the onboarding experience to gain more data point that can later inform the product experience and CRM.

To deliver this effectively a company will need a combination of skills that at the very least include: product management, front end and back end dev, analytics and design, commercial acumen and growth modelling.


I have included this section just as a reminder: any optimisation / testing work requires the following base skills:

- Analytics

- Statistics

- Research

- Test design

When should each tool be used?

Caveat: each one of these tools can bring huge wins in terms of performance. They may also be used successfully at different stages, but according to my personal experience, (and some logic), different tools are most effective at different stages. On the contrary, using a tool at the wrong stage may lead to sub-par performance.

Here is a table to summarise:

If unsure on which tool to test follow this rule of thumb:

Early stage: the priority is fixing what doesn't work and nailing communication

Growth stage: improve value for users for significant wins

Maturity stage: improve performance by delivering many small gains

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