5 Key Takeaways from Opticon 2017

Opticon 2017 - Presentation screen

The fourth installment of Opticon was one for the books. The conference was packed with cutting edge innovation and some of the most creative minds in the industry. Whether it was the unveiling of new products, or hearing industry leaders discuss the shift in an experimentation mindset, there was no shortage of ideas floating around Las Vegas for Opticon 2017.

This Opticon was particularly meaningful for us, as it was the fourth attendance and third time sponsoring what once started as an afternoon gathering of experimentation and testing enthusiasts, and has evolved into a jam packed three-day event with all sorts of inspiring, informative and challenging topics. Here are our highlight takeaways:

#1 Develop A Culture of Experimentation

The overarching theme of Opticon was building a culture of experimentation on an organizational level. It can start with one individual inspiring employees to take risks and “break stuff” to gain insights that are below the surface.

A major barrier to being comfortable with experimenting is the fear of messing up. It was iterated throughout the conference to step outside your comfort zone and test your ideas to see if they work. If you’re not testing, you’re not trying. What seems like a simple idea can lead to extended improvements on an organizational level. Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

Opticon 2017 - Presentation screen w/audience

#2 Dissolve the Gender Gap

One of the final keynote speakers, Reshma Saujani, has decided to personally tackle the gender gap in the tech industry, and is making some incredible progress. She is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a tech organization that has already inspired thousands of girls to enter the industry.

Saujani has tasked herself with dissecting the fundamental decline of women in the industry and has found the core problem: The media’s depiction of the tech industry being filled with red-bull-drinking, nerdy white males, does not paint the picture of innovation and empowerment young women are looking to see. However, her organization gives women a different outlook, one of using tech to “change the world” and, from the installation of her program, we have already begun to see this change.

Opticon 2017 - Presentation screen w/audience

#3 Turn Failure into Success

IBM’s Ari Sheinkin elegantly discussed three failures he had to overcome as he pushed for the acceptance of an experimentation mindset as a core value of IBM. One story that jumped out was the story of Ned. We all know a “Ned,” the guy who is stuck in his ways and is too stubborn to recognize the changing times around him. In IBM’s case, their main block to adopting a culture of experimentation was one guy who had to approve every test an employee wanted to run. This is the epitome of a bottleneck effect, so Sheinkin set out to change it. After rousting Ned from the company, he shifted the old-school mindset into one of innovation, which is not an easy task in a company that has been around over 100 years. His passion for experimentation was poured into his presentation and after leaving his session, it was great to feel a positive, overarching sense of being comfortable with shifting the status quo.

Opticon 2017 - Presentation screen w/audience - Running a test vs Building a plan

#4 Cultivate a “What if We…?” Mentality

Listening to Mig Reyes discuss his career path as a graphic designer was a refreshing experience. He discussed his time working at Trunk Club, and his adoption of the “What if We…?” mentality.

His take on this mentality stems from not falling into the, occasionally entrapping, box that your official title can provide. Reyes continually discussed how he has stepped outside of the basic job requirements and found incredible success from taking that leap. Find your passion, and let it guide you. If you have an area you excel in, but it doesn’t fall into your day-to-day routine, shift the routine. It is this fundamental shift that can lead to staggering improvements on an organizational level.   

Opticon 2017 - Presentation panel discussion

#5 Work Out Your Creative Muscle

Not literally. If creativity was a muscle, it would be a sore sight to see. In a more figurative mindset, creativity truly can be “worked out.” The first barrier to creativity is thinking it can only be expressed in the form of arts. While this is an important element, it is not the only application. The foundation of optimization in the workplace is creativity, the perfect mix of left and right brain individuals. If we begin to recognize that creativity can be applied not only the arts, but also to restructuring websites and configuring powerful advertisements, the possibilities for creating engaging, effective content and experiences are limitless. 

Opticon 2017 - Presentation screen w/audience. Screen reads: Out of our minds - The power of being creative.

Of course, we couldn’t hang with our friends at Optimizely without bringing a little fun to the party. Our booth highlighted our “Happy Customers Convert” mantra with the playful use of clip on smile coasters that turn any face into a happy one. The response was a big hit, and the smiles could be spied throughout the conference getting a laugh, an even bigger grin than the coaster, and breaking down walls between newfound clients, partners and friends.

Opticon 2017 - roboboogie swag - face coasters

Thanks to Optimizely for putting on another amazing event. We already can’t wait for Opticon 2018, and the exciting experimentation on the docket for the coming year.

Written by Tyler Hudson and Jedidiah Fugle

Interview with Roboboogie Behavioral Analyst, Kelly Burgett

Kelly Burgett - digital analyst

Have you ever wanted to look deeper into the constantly evolving field of analytics? We sat down with Roboboogie Behavioral Analyst Kelly Burgett to ask about his expertise in digital analytics and to see how data tools tie into his work with optimization.

How do you describe what you do?

I see the process of analytics as an opportunity to understand something new about an audience. There is a TON an organization can learn from analyzing how users interact with their brand’s digital properties. Data collection is fundamental to defining success and redefining focus. It allows you to benchmark your site performance, evaluate marketing spend, and make educated decisions on how to engage more effectively with your users. Data gives clarity to decision-making, and allows decision-makers to move forward quicker and more confidently.

What is a skill set that you use every day, but never thought you would have to?

I often find myself building presentations and presenting data to stakeholders who may not be as technically-minded. Effectively visualizing data, or creating the right story to communicate what’s most important, is a large part of what I do.

How do you approach solving problems?

I think working with data has taught me to always think about the output. What do I want the solution to look like? I’ve often found I am focusing on the wrong problem, and I really need to shift my focus to ensure I get what I want out of the time spent.

What digital analytics trends are you currently most excited about?

The application of real-time analytics is something we see in ‘personalization’ and I think it’s been a cumbersome concept for a long time. When you think about a site like Amazon or Netflix, which is constantly evolving your unique user experience to mirror what it thinks you want to see, it can be a frustrating or incredible experience, depending on how accurately it gauges the user’s interest in specific content. Personalization is one of the most exciting trends for me as an analyst, because it really is the application of real-time user-level analytics in a way that creates meaningful user experiences.

What advice do you have for new A/B test creators in regards to conversion goals, data integrity, and statistical analysis?

Always have a hypothesis for a test, and make sure what you’re tracking will allow you to answer that. Structure your test to give you the ammunition to defend or scrap your hypothesis. You always learn something valuable from testing IF you are collecting the data that allows you take a position at the end of the test.

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your behavioral analytics insights with us! If you would like to learn more about Roboboogie, visit www.teamroboboogie.com.

Stay tuned for next month’s interview with another Roboboogie pro!
Posted by Andrea Pappoff

Top 8 Take-Aways From Portland Creative Conference

Portland Creative Conference - Speaker in front of audience

Nowadays it seems like everyone is throwing a conference: every major SaaS product and industry vertical has their own conference. There are more than enough opportunities to spend thousands of dollars while hunting for inspiration from creative leaders.

But the Portland Creative Conference is different. Founded in 1990, the Portland Creative Conference is focused on highlighting the mechanisms and organizational techniques that lead to success within the creative process. The format attracts a wide variety of attendees, as such, conference speakers cater their message to this industry-agnostic audience, which was captured beautifully in this year’s theme: “No matter what you do, you need creativity.”

The day long event was packed full of good insights, applicable recommendations and thought-provoking conversation. But a few speakers struck a chord with particularly inspiring messages.

Marcelino Alvarez – Founder and CEO of Uncorked Studios

Marcelino Alvarez has made a career for himself of getting projects done – first as a producer and now as the CEO at Uncorked Studios. He shared with us his process for getting projects out the door – almost always in list format.

Takeaway #1: Share your tools to help others.

Portland Creative Conference - Marcelino Alverez in front of audience

As creatives and producers, we have all found ways to get things done. Sometimes they are efficient, other times they are roundabout – but we would all be better to speak more openly about how it is we do what we do. Our industry doesn’t need to be obscured, and we may gain insight that we previously never would have tapped into without this conversation. Share your thoughts, tools, process and knowledge to help others.

Kim Adams – Virtual reality producer

Persistence is key to Kim Adams’ story of getting to be the busiest producer at Pixar and now one of the leading producers in the world of VR. She never let a denied meeting request or unreturned call stop her. By connecting with people and lending a hand, she was able to find her way through a complicated network of who-knows-who in order to reach her goal.

Takeaway #2: Trust your team.

Portland Creative Conference - Kim Adams in front of audience

Adams was at one point the busiest producer at Pixar, which means that she needed to trust her team. She then found herself working in VR, something she knew nothing about. Again, she had to trust her team to execute. Time and time again she finds herself unsure of the environment she is working in, but always able to build a team she can depend on and work with to execute the impossible.

Peter Kuran – Academy Award-winner, visual effects

Peter Kuran’s first project in film was on Star Wars, where he was forced to solve complicated special effects problems with very little technology compared to today. It made him incredibly resourceful and able to create unique solutions for problems within the film industry.

Takeaway #3: It all comes down to problem solving.

Portland Creative Conference - Peter Kuran in front of audience

Kuran found himself caught in the middle of the switch from analog to digital. After years of developing skills, he found himself having to adapt to a whole new world of technology and expectations. But he recognized a universal: people will always have problems. By being able to identify and solve those problems, you will make yourself invaluable.

David Walker – Award-winning comic book writer

The first time David attended the Portland Creative Conference, he actually made a fake badge – he couldn’t afford the ticket. That’s the wonder of the people who presented at this event – they all had creative ways to solve the problems they encounter.

In his professional life, David has been a number of things – but his heart has always been in comics. It took him decades of trying, with many false starts and career changes, to break into the industry, but he persisted – and continues to push the conversation in comics.

Takeaway #4: Creatively is determined by the company you keep.

Portland Creative Conference - David Walker in front of audience

Walker recommends that you surround yourself with people who push you in the direction you’re looking for. It’s important to help people get better, but you need to always be working on yourself, too.

Wes Studi – Academy Award-winning actor

Wes Studi spoke about the process that he goes through as an actor to be successful, sharing scenes that highlighted the different ways he approached becoming a character. It was incredible to learn about the emotional toll that acting can take, especially if you need to oscillate between different scenes and character behaviors.

Takeaway #5: Believe in serendipity and response.

Portland Creative Conference - Wes Studi in front of audience

It is important to feel things naturally. Allow others and yourself to experience joy and pain so you can have a natural response.

Lidia Yuknavitch – Portland-based author

Yuknavitch spent years discovering her creative process, pushing back against those who demanded different from her. But through it all she has learned to discover and embrace the process that works for her, which may mean that sometimes ideas will sit for decades before she takes action on them.

Takeaway #6: Define your own story.

Portland Creative Conference - Lidia Yuknavitch in front of audience

Too often we allow others to portray their perception onto us, without allowing us to be ourselves. We own our own story about who we are. As Lidia so movingly put it, “I am not the story you make of me.”

Angela Medlin – Apparel designer

Angela Medlin spoke with us about her coming up in the apparel industry. Though she worked her way to becoming one of the most influential designers in the industry, she did so while hiding her other passions – most notably, painting. When she had the courage to announce her love of activities outside of apparel, she quickly found a community within her peers – who all were able to be a truer version of themselves.

Takeaway #6: Nothing is arbitrary.

Portland Creative Conference - Angela Medlin in front of audience

Medlin’s life has been one of hard work and dedication to her passion. It can be easy to brush off an idea or an interest, but it is important to understand that everything in our lives helps to form who we are, the decisions we make, and our approach through each day.

Shawn Levy – Bestselling author

Shawn Levy investigates the times, societies, and people that make magic happen. His investigative process enables him to get at the details that others would ignore and create a map of a community that is far more detailed than what most historians will consider.

Takeaway #8: The sum will achieve greater than the parts.

Portland Creative Conference - Shawn Levy in front of audience

Portland is at a unique point in history. We don’t create much that can be easily exported, but we are a community that is building something special. So consider what you can do to encourage that, and enable Portland to be the absolute best that it can be.

All For A Good Cause

The conference itself is one of the least expensive you will find – coming in a little over $100, with most of the proceeds going directly to Keeping the Arts, a Oregon-based nonprofit that gives grants to fund arts education programs.

For me, the Portland Creative Conference was an opportunity to learn about how other people approach problems and opportunities in their careers and in their lives.

An Optimization Strategist’s Takeaway

As an Optimization Strategist, process is inspiring for me. It is easy to fall into the normal track of uncovering opportunities, but hearing stories of other processes makes me consider what a solution may look like if the path winds a bit differently – and that is an exciting possibility, indeed.

Written by Duncan Lawrence.

Optimization Deconstructed | Part VI: Letting Data Insights Drive Strategy

Victor Robles and Stratton Easter in Bend, Oregon, USA

In our final installment of Optimization Deconstructed, we’ll wrap up our Specialized Bikes case study by discussing the importance of laying a strategic foundation on data insights, and how applying a data-driven optimization strategy ensures success. You can’t argue with results!

Silhouette of riders with bikes and sunset in background

Starting with Customer Data

With each optimization engagement, we begin by understanding our client’s customers: what motivates them, what makes them tick, and ultimately how the current digital experience either meets or lacks in meeting a users’s expectation. Our research, data gathering, and analysis phase comprises a unique blend of qualitative and quantitate data collection that best suits the digital experience and target market. For the case of Specialized Bikes, a mixture of user feedback, employee interviews, Google Analytics behavioral data, and a detailed heuristic experience audit laid the groundwork for highlighting key pain-points and opportunity for performance improvement through iterative testing.

Over the course of this phase, each step helped paint a clearer picture of Specialize’s key customer base, which revealed influential and noteworthy customer segments.

Persona created to represent specialized bikes consumer

After identifying key audiences, we ran these customer segments through anticipated user journeys to identify gaps to see where the current experience met a user’s needs, and where a refined, updated or added feature would enhance a user’s experience.

Customer Flow for Jessica

This process helped to uncover an array of opportunities to improve usability, refine content, and streamline user paths. Each was documented, and follow-up research or analysis was noted as well as potential solutions. This master list was then categorized into optimization themes that could addressed in tandem. After some refining, these categories landed out as:

  • Global Navigation
  • Shop Gear
  • Shop Bikes
  • General Usability

Each category was then prioritized in collaboration with the client, allowing an optimization roadmap to emerge – and a process for addressing all major pain-points in a systematic ‘test and iterate’ series of optimization campaigns.

Specialized optimization roadmap

Developing a Data-Driven Strategy

With prioritized efforts, and an established roadmap, it was time to get to work to map engagement points – noting minor and major conversions which we call “micro” and “macro” conversions, most frequented navigational paths, high-level traffic percentages, baseline performance metrics, and other notable insights. This Conversion Map becomes a living, breathing collaborative reference we use when working with clients to document new learnings and evolve strategy. (Note: the following Conversion Map below is a greatly stripped back version to protect proprietary industry findings and the privacy of Specialized).

Specialized Conversion map tracking

Entering Solution Mode

With a clear roadmap, an established optimization approach, and documented baseline performance metrics, it was time to get to work to develop a series of testable (or sometimes directly implementable) site updates for each of our campaigns. After a number of collaborative brainstorms with the client and internal test ideation sessions, we then narrowed down our focus areas to the concepts that were most likely to result in positive outcome of achieving business goals.

Optimization Campaigns in Motion

With an attack plan, it was time to put our strategy into action. In turn, each site opportunity was addressed and solved for through UX enhancements, copy changes, content updates, and design changes – implemented via a testing platform (Optimizely in the Specialized case) or directly on site –  and tracked user behavior to quantify impact.

For a more detailed look into our overall optimization approach as well as design, experimentation and personalization processes, checkout parts II through V of this series!

A Proven Process

As new customer behavioral data and site performance metrics entered the picture, we added learnings to our audience profiles and adjusted strategy and campaign priorities. It is key to be nimble and listen to the data stories customers are telling to maximize campaign effectiveness. For Specialized, this included extending the testing campaign duration for navigation and gear shopping as priority over exposing users to more bikes and encouraging browsing behavior within their catalog.

Our two most notable campaigns, focusing on navigation and product sales (while continually refining overall usability) are summarized below:

Our first campaign aimed to provide a clear path to products through site usability improvements. Through our research and analysis we identified several opportunities to optimize navigational paths to allow visitors to purchase products more quickly in hopes of reducing bounce rate and improving sales. We ran various experiments across global, contextual and promotional navigational elements, such as redesign of how product paths were displayed, introducing a “back” button on mobile PDP pages, various PDP and category page layout redesigns, and a rework of primary navigation structure and nomenclature. These optimization efforts led to:


increase in navigation engagement


increase in eCommerce revenue

Another key campaign aimed to raise shopping site awareness by highlighting the shopability of Specialized.com as an eCommerce site and it’s differentiating benefits. Efforts included a redesign of iconography, cross-promotional products, integration of a featured product shopping strip on homepage, personalization efforts to reach specific product categories, and the introduction of ‘shoppable heroes’ to expose users to eCommerce paths in more locations around the site.

7.8 %

increase in product pageviews


increase in eCommerce revenue

Racers riding specialized bikes going up hill on a turn

Optimization Benefits All

At roboboogie, we stand behind the belief that optimization really shines when there is laser focus on achieving an experience that is best for the customer, as business results always follow, because Happy Customers Convert. We hope this series has given a comprehensive look into our process, with some real-life examples, and tactics to inform and improve your optimization process. Thanks as always to the wonderful folks at Specialized!

Interested in learning more about our process or how we can help you implement or improve your optimization process? Send us a note, we’d love to hear from you.

Contributors: Andrea Pappoff, Duncan Lawrence, Etain O’Longaigh, Jedidiah Fugle, John Gentle