Frameworks for analyzing websites

Hear the tricks of the trade from CRO experts in The Optimize CRO Series.

The main benefit of working with conversion optimization is that it can bring a company from designing websites primarily based on subjective creativity and instead building on the knowledge within data-driven research, methodology and processes. One important part of the process is to use a framework to help you analyze web design and user experiences on your website and app. This helps you make decisions based on data and makes it easier to see if a website fulfills the needs of the users—no matter what anyone personally feels about the design.

But which frameworks are effective in analyzing a site? Here are the favorites among CRO experts:

Lorenzo Carreri, Optimization and Growth at CXL Agency

Lorenzo Carreri, Optimization and Growth at CXL Agency
United Kingdom

“I use the heuristic analysis and then back it up with data gathered during my research process.

When I start working with a client I basically do a walk through of the entire site (or at least the most important pages) on the devices with the most traffic, and always have Google Analytics opened at the same time. This allows me to back up my assumptions when going through a page and analyze it.

I evaluate website pages based on:

  • Traffic source: Is there a message mismatch between the channel and the landing page and the expectations that the user is coming with?
  • Clarity: Clarity trumps persuasion. If a person doesn’t understand what the copy means, he/she can’t be persuaded.
  • Friction: A typical example of a point of friction that I see in a lot of e-commerce websites is asking to register during the checkout process and asking for too much information in the checkout form. Pro tip here is to always run user testing to understand where people are tripping out in the funnel.
  • Distractions: Removing elements that don’t contribute to the path to conversion can sometimes bring the highest lifts.

Motivation: This includes different elements such as the main benefits of your product, urgency, social proof or a particular attracting offer.”

James Flory, Senior Experimentation Strategist at WiderFunnel

James Flory, Senior Experimentation Strategist at WiderFunnel
United States

“The LIFT model, created by Chris Goward at WiderFunnel, is a fantastically succinct and powerful framework for analyzing a digital experience.

Using it is as simple as understanding the six pillars—value proposition, relevance, clarity, anxiety, distraction, and urgency—and overlaying them onto a page or customer journey. Put yourself in the user’s shoes, imagine yourself with their goals and state of mind and begin interacting with the experience. As you do, be hyper critical of any potential areas of friction (anxiety, distraction) or potential drivers of conversion (clarity, relevance, value proposition, urgency) and note them down.

Once you have this list of LIFT points, you can begin to translate them into hypotheses and build experiments around them.”

The LIFT model® by WiderFunnel

The LIFT model® by WiderFunnel

Dr Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson, founders of Conversion Rate Experts

Dr Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson, founders of Conversion Rate Experts and authors of Making Websites Win
United States

“When we founded Conversion Rate Experts in 2006, we coined the term “Conversion Rate Optimization” (CRO) for our methodology, and the industry subsequently adopted the term. However, as you’ll see below, our definition of CRO is different from everyone else’s.

Here’s a brief overview of the nine stage process we follow:

  1. Strategy: Agree your strategy, define your long-term goals, and decide how you’ll measure success.

  2. Customer journey: Understand your entire conversion funnel, starting with the initial ad impression where someone first encounters your business and finishing with the thank you page and beyond (there’s often a lot of opportunity in optimizing post-sale events).

  3. Visitors: Understand your visitors (particularly the non-converting ones) and their intentions. This requires research.

  4. Competitors: Study your marketplace—for example, your competitors, any expert commentators, and what your customers are saying in social media and on review sites—and then explore possibilities for improving your positioning by building upon your company’s core strengths.

  5. Proof: Identify your persuasion assets. Each of our clients has had elements within its business that would have been highly persuasive to its prospects but that the prospects never saw. The key is to identify all of these persuasion assets, and then present them to the prospect at the right time in the buying process.

  6. Priorities: Create your experimental strategy. Take all of the ideas you’ve generated from the research and prioritize those big, bold, targeted ones that will grow your business in the shortest time.

  7. Design: Design your experimental web pages (your “challengers”). Your challengers should be more persuasive, more believable, and more user-friendly than the existing version. Pay particular attention to critical copy elements such as the headline, introductory paragraphs, and calls to action. Carry out several usability tests on your challengers and discuss them with anyone who has an empathic understanding of your customers.

  8. Experiments: Carry out experiments on your website. For each test, follow a procedure that ensures that all team members understand what the test is. Experiment plans create a valuable archive of your business’s evolution.

  9. Channel roll out: Transfer your winning content into other media. Explore how you can test the insights from your winning experiments in other parts of your marketing funnel (such as your ads, videos and social media posts).

Each win often reveals new opportunities. The process is iterative; subsequent experiments will be based on the outcome of the previous experiments. Also, as your conversion rate grows, more opportunities present themselves. After each A/B test, it’s important to 'zoom out'and look at the whole conversion funnel again, to determine which part of the business you should focus on next.”

Gino Arendsz, Growth and E-commerce Manager at Helloprint

Gino Arendsz, Growth and E-commerce Manager at Helloprint

“We recently adopted the AARRR framework and adapted it to our needs. The standard version has five phases, each with their own set of metrics and OMTM (One Metric That Matters). If this for instance was used for a recipe app, it could look like this:

  • Acquisition: How do customers find you? OMTM could be to grow the number of app downloads, click through rate or conversion rate from landing page to the app stores.

  • Activation: How quickly can you get your customers to the aha moment? OMTM could be the number of one to five recipe swipes, as this would show that the visitors enjoy the service, or perhaps successful onboarding.

  • Retention: How many of your customers are you retaining and why are you losing the others? OMTM is the retention rate, showing if people come back to your app month after month.

  • Referral: How can you turn your customers into your advocates? OMTM can be number of app installs through referrals, net promoter score or number of invitations sent to invite friends.

  • Revenue: How can you increase revenue? OMTM is the average order value, average order value per user or customer lifetime value.

For us, as an online printing company, artwork is part of our core business and also an essential part of the customer journey, so we added it to our pirate funnel.

By having a set of leading KPIs on both performance and customer ease, we look for gaps and/or irregularities that are indicators of customers having a bad or broken experience.”

Melanie Bowles, Specialist in Optimization and Insights at InfoTrust

Melanie Bowles, Specialist in Optimization and Insights at InfoTrust
United States

“I really like Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Heuristic framework. It is well accepted and pretty timeless. I have a list of questions that I use as thought-starters for each of the 10 general heuristic principles. I use this when doing a full UX evaluation for a site or when brainstorming test ideas for a particular site template or element that may need some optimization. Examples of four of the principles:

  • Visibility of system status
    The system (website) should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time. (Read full article on visibility of system status.)

  • Match between system and the real world
    The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. It should follow real-world conventions and making information appear in a natural and logical order. (Read full article on the match between the system and the real world.)

  • Recognition rather than recall
    Minimize the user's memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate. (Read full article on recognition vs. recall in UX.)

  • Aesthetic and minimalist design
    Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.”


Iqbal Ali, Head of Optimization at Trainline

Iqbal Ali, Head of Optimization at Trainline
United Kingdom

“When analysing the site on our own for experiment ideas, we pretty much do anything we fancy—from LIFT-based analysis to just hypothesising based on user feedback or analytics insight, diving into data from our analytics packages to validate insights where possible.

When analysing our site for experiment ideas as a group, we follow the Lean UX workshop structure (or at least something very similar to this). What this involves is: first define the problem areas we want to focus on, presenting as much information as possible; then we ideate individually before reviewing as a group.”


The experts bring several great frameworks that take in parameters on the scale from business strategy analysis to primarily website audits. If you want to see an example of how Google combines the LIFT model with recommendations for mobile design, check out the videos and suggestions in the Optimize Resource Hub sorted into the homepage, navigation, category and product page, and checkout.

By Lina Hansson

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