About Tim Leighton-Boyce
What I do. Why I do it.
I used to earn my living helping make e-commerce web sites better. I’m a web-analytics practitioner who’s worked on both sides of the client-consultant relationship. I’ve spent many years working in retail and then a decade as a consultant.
I’m fascinated by my work and although I’ve been doing it for a long time I never stop learning.
I think this stuff is exciting. I enjoy helping make sites better. We all have to use them, so why not make them the best we can?
My career is a blend of traditional mail order, off-line publishing and on-line marketing. Although these days I no longer work in ecommerce, I started out working within retailers, so I’ve dealt with the realities of trying to make this stuff work. I’ve even helped survive a total-loss warehouse and HQ fire which puts a lot of the trials and tribulations of day-to-day business in a different perspective.
Traditional Mail Order
I started out working for a sports retailer back in 1978. I ended up running the mail order department and was involved in turning it round from being the ‘bad boys’ of the market to being one which is remembered with fondness by those nostalgic for the time.
We did this with a strategy based on exceding customer service expectations. In particular:
- We delivered next day when “allow 28 days” was the normal standard
- We did everything we could to keep customers informed
That second part was very different in those days. If there was a problem, we tried to phone. If there was no answer (no mobile phones and no answering machines back then), we sent you a postcard!
We kept you engaged, to use the modern word.
When the main magazines in our market closed down, we turned our price list into a newsletter. One way or another we kept those communication channels open… And because we kept the two-way channels open we learnt a lot.
Back in 1994 I joined a small group of pioneers who were experimenting with ways of using the web for commercial purposes. State51’s original clients were companies like Virgin Records when they were taking their first steps on line.
In those days nobody really understood what a web site was, let alone how people used them. We used to conduct introductory sessions for journalists and managers showing them how it all worked. One of the biggest issues we had to deal with was explaining that it’s a two-way process and that the public decide where they want to enter the site and where they want to go.
As part of the process we got heavily involved in trying to plot visitor journeys and monitor test users. At first we used the log files… When Analog came along it was as if Christmas had come early. All this in the days when most other people were boasting about ‘hits’.
We were also experimenting with test e-commerce sites using Perl scripts from “Mat’s Script Archive” running on Stronghold. More nostalgia there, for those who know.
Bringing it Back Together
With that background it was inevitable that I would become more deeply involved in e-commerce. The call came in 1997 when I was lured back into the world of retail to set up an ecommerce site for a clothing and footwear distributor. I spent eight years there.
Most of that time was spent dealing with the myriad practical issues connected with fulfilment and customer service. But the aspect which fascinated me was the challenge of working out what the customers wanted to do and coming up with ways of making it easier for them to do it.
In short: I’ve been working online for a long time. The longer I do it, the more I learn. And the more I learn the less I “know” — apart from the knowledge that much that we assume to be true about the users of our sites will turn out to be mistaken. The only way to know is to test, to ask, to monitor and to find out.
Then use those insights to make things better.
That’s what this blog is all about.