Letting it Go

by Anthemos Georgiades

There are various lessons I could have discussed here regarding the UX tests I ran for my startup Zumper. But, instead, I am going to focus on one challenge that these tests created for me: my ability – or lack thereof – to let my own opinions and intuitions drop.

In the three lean tests that I ran, two of them confirmed something I had suspected. The third one however did not. In my ‘banner’ test, I tested (1) the price users thought a standard bed frame was worth, under three different themes of page banners and then (2) if the user could actually remember the site’s name after use. I found that what I considered to be the most ‘boring’ white and grey banner drove the highest price estimations from users and beat our other two banners hands-down on brand recollection.

I had actually only included this ‘boring’ banner in the lean test as a control. My hypothesis had been that our green banner would drive the best engagement given that this was the predominant color of our beta site’s previous look and feel. But the users that took this test did not necessarily know or care about that. In fact, to eliminate any bias from the test, I had consciously told users that this was a random furniture website (with a fake brand Penrose.com in the top left corner). This had no relationship to Zumper so the users were truly just giving their intuitive feel.

The results were personally very challenging and I am yet to overcome the following dilemma: the data suggest that a plain white and grey site banner might be the best option for Zumper as we design our new site; and yet I have known Zumper to have a ‘green’ feel for twelve months and it feels like an important part of the ‘soul’ of our company.

I am consequently still struggling to drop this green look and feel. Every lean book I’ve read talks about the need to be prepared to drop long-held assumptions. But, sitting here writing this, I’m still avoiding having to make this decision. Is it that I’m stubborn? Or that the lean books aren’t always right and that sometimes a CEO needs to go with their gut instinct?

I don’t know.

My advice to anyone reading this is simple: be prepared to be spectacularly wrong about assumptions that you have held dear for months, if not years! And, if you don’t change direction after seeing compelling data, be prepared to answer for it.

I don’t mean this to sound critical of such a decision. On the green banner decision, I suspect I may ultimately overrule the data. Often CEOs need to have a strong and intangible vision that can’t be distilled into a simple lean test. It’s just that, having seen persuasive data and then consciously rejected it, the same CEOs need to be even more certain that their vision is compelling and still relevant.


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