For 5 months last year, I contracted with a company launch a new web site.
My task was to shepherd the design (which was completed before I joined) through development and into the world. As such, in my duties I was a product manager, coordinating efforts with engineering, design, and marketing, making sure that the new design performed as well as the old one.
In order to understand performance, I spent much of my time analyzing charts and graphs, assessing conversion rates and looking for clues across browsers, operating systems, and flows to understand why one design was performing better than another.
And it was in this activity that I started to scare myself. Because I became obsessed with conversion numbers. How do we make sure that at least the same number of people move through the new design as the old one?
And it started to feel like a game. These conversion metrics are points. If you fiddled with some aspect of the design, could you get a higher score? And as anyone raised in video games knows, you are always trying to get a high score.
It’s very easy to forget that there are humans in those numbers. You approach it more like an amorphous mass, a fluid that you’re trying to get through a funnel.
A key theme of my writings about the Connected Age was the need for business to embrace humanity. And yet even though I am highly sensitized to this issue, it was seductively easy to slip into this dehumanizing mindset.
This is at the heart of capitalism.