So far, we’ve looked at how to link what visitors did on your site with the goals you’re hoping they’ll accomplish. We’ve seen how to segment visits so you can understand what’s working and what isn’t, and how to experiment iteratively in order to optimize the effectiveness of your website.
But no amount of optimization will save you if you don’t understand what visitors wanted to accomplish in the first place.
Understanding your market’s real motivations is difficult at best. According to Lou Carbone of Experience Engineering, Inc., 95 percent of people’s motivations are subconscious (www.smeal.psu.edu/isbm/documents/0206msum.pdf). People seldom say what they mean. Sometimes they’re trying to conform to the interviewer’s expectations. Sometimes they want to hide socially unacceptable biases—racism, ethical beliefs, and so on—that nevertheless affect how they behave (the Bradley effect is one example of respondents giving more socially acceptable responses that differed from their actual behavior: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_effect).
Often, people simply don’t know why they do what they do. Their unconscious mind has decided how to act long before their conscious mind knows about it, leaving people to rationalize their behavior after the fact (www.mpg.de/english/illustrationsDocumentation/documentation/pressReleases/2008/pressRelease20080414/index.html).
That’s a frightening prospect, particularly for analytically minded ...