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We recommend a data first approach when it comes to identifying user problems; however, there are many scenarios where people don’t know where to start looking for opportunities. When this happens, we recommend starting with a heuristic analysis.

Heuristic analysis

Heuristic analysis is a ubiquitous tool used by most CRO practitioners. So, what is a heuristic? A heuristic can be defined as a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently.

While there are many heuristics available to help those looking to increase their conversion rates, Optimizely has the data on hundreds of thousands of experiments to uncover what works.  With this information, we have created a repeatable framework that can be used across industries and page types to identify conversion drivers. It is also a simple-to-use and easy-to-remember framework (no difficult training or documentation required).

So now to the heuristic. It’s as simple as OXS. That’s right, that’s it!

When auditing your experience, pay attention to the offer, the user experience, and stimulus to find the best chance at converting your customers.

Let’s break it down.


Your offer is exactly that, what you have to offer to your site visitors. When we think about the offer, there are multiple elements that increase our chances of conversion.

  • The content displayed should be relevant to where your users are in the journey and align to their motivations. This is where you can dig into your data to understand where your traffic is coming from and who your ideal prospects are.
  • Messaging around your offer should be articulate and trustworthy. Use simple language and get straight to the point (try to avoid buzzwords, fluff, and internal terminology as much as possible). Build trust with your offer by including proof claims such as testimonials, logos, quantitative data points, ratings, reviews or guarantees.
  • Finally, ensure that you are showcasing what you have to offer as appealing and exclusive. Make sure that your prospects understand why they want your product and why they can’t get it somewhere else.

User experience

User experience encompasses all aspects of a user’s interaction with your site. We want users to have a seamless experience with our site, but there are a few elements that can get in the way of that.

  • Friction prevents users from being able to easily accomplish their end goal on your site, whether that’s a sign-up, purchase, download, or other major KPI. Some common user friction points occur from a design that isn’t clear or intuitive or a flow that requires too many steps.
  • It’s common for users to lose interest in a site if they find too many distractions, which can happen if they become overwhelmed with what they’re presented. Make sure you aren’t providing users with too many options on the page or giving them walls of text to read.
  • Effective options to find out if users are encountering these elements or dealing with confusion are reviewing your data and watching user sessions. If you have a multi-step flow, look at your analytics to find where the largest drop off is between steps and start your focus there. Watching user sessions allows you to pinpoint areas of opportunity by comparing what you want a user to do against what they’re doing on the site.


Our last category, stimulus, covers how stimulated a user is to convert on your site. There are two main elements to stimulus, but both lead to the user’s question: “why should I convert here?”

  • What incentive are you providing to users to entice them to convert? Users want to know what you’re providing that they can’t get from competitors, whether that’s certain value props, sales or promos; how well are you selling your product or service?
  • Adding urgency behind your messaging or offer can push users to convert sooner rather than waiting too long to make a decision or going to competitors to see if there’s something better.

We’ve broken down the OXS to help you find the best opportunities to convert your customers, but here are a few key points to remember:

  • A heuristic analysis is a mental shortcut that helps you solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently
  • Using data is our first approach for identifying user problems, but a heuristic analysis is a great place to start if you don’t know where to begin looking for opportunities.
  • The OXS framework focuses on the offer, the user experience, and the stimulus. Keep your offer content relevant, minimize friction and distractions in your user experience, and stimulate customers to convert with an enticing incentive.