UX and CRO Expert Karl Gilis Shares His Insights Ahead of Digital Elite

Karl Gilis has been working in UX and Conversion Rate Optimisation for nearly 20 years. Karl will be running a workshop on June 5th. He speaks to SEO Jo Blogs about the workshop and the conference.

You have an impressive CV, how did you first get into this line of work?

“I stumbled into it many many years ago. In 1996 I graduated from university and it was the first or second year that internet was available in Belgium so I started a web agency. I made what I thought were beautiful websites, but they were probably quite horrible. One of the websites I made for myself, was about computers (because I was a big nerd). The site had news and stuff like that about every download. I used to be very creative, so you needed to open a curtain to see the wonderful articles I had written. The curtain thing was discussed in many design forums all over the world and I think I even won a design award in a magazine in Belgium but my subscription list did not grow according to the attention I had.

So what I did was installed a counter on the first splash page and then the real home page. There was no Google Analytics. I soon noticed that 80% of all visitors were not able to open the curtain. Therefore I ditched that splash screen with the curtain and suddenly my website grew and my audience as well.

That was the first time in my young life, that I realised that you should act as normal as possible and not do crazy things. Make the website as easy to use as possible.

I had not heard of the word usability in those days but because I needed people using my website because I lived from advertising, I made it easy to use and always easier to use. That was the first time I got in touch with what would be my business.

In 2001, I sold my web agency and my content agency and started AGConsult with Els and the rest is history.

The core of what we do is still usability, user research, making customers and visitors as happy as possible.  We try and turn those visitors into customers but for us the most important thing is happy customers.


2. Can you share a case study you are most proud of?

I will share a lot of case studies during my talk and you can find some on my website. The problem is if I tell them now, people may not come to the event. People will have to come to Digital Elite if they really want to see some case studies. In my workshop, I will share 50 case studies.

Most clients are sceptical about the changes we want to make especially if it is in the beginning when it is the first or second of third A/B test.  This is especially the case even if based on data and user research. We often see that people say they want to experiment but they are also afraid of real experimentation especially if the experiments goes out of their comfort zone and out of the corporate branding guidelines.

We do not care about guidelines, we want everything to be ethical. We think that guidelines should be the result of testing and experimentation and not the other way round. For case studies, come to the workshop, there will be some surprising elements, I can assure you.

You will be talking about scrolling heat maps in the master class.

The low end tool that most people are using is HotJar, it is a good tool. I was really impressed when they launched it three or four years ago. It was one of the first all in one tools that were really affordable. We have click heat maps, scroll heat maps, user section form analysis, recordings, you can do sliding surveys with it, so it was a pretty good tool. I have a feeling since the moment they launched until now, that nothing seriously has evolved. They have not made any progress, their competition has made progress so I would urge them to make it better again. That is why I am now more in favour of a tool called Session Camp.

When you can afford it, I recommend Session Camp. On the surface it looks indeed like another tool that allows you to have scroll heat maps, click heat maps, session recordings, form analysis, funnel analysis etc. However, they have some pattern recognition in it, so you do not need to look at all pages again to get warnings about typical behaviour that shows the user is struggling. The second thing is that they make a connection with Google Analytics. You can easily see if you have a segment in GA, of users that do something or don’t do something, you can watch those videos.

Session camp for the more high end users. It is more advanced and expensive. Hotjar still a good entry point tool.


Your workshop has some great tips and take aways, it is hard for some people to get out of the office to attend the workshops

If you stay in the office the rest of your life, you will not a lot of learn new things. You have to get in touch with other people in the industry. That is why even when not speaking, I do attend a lot of conferences. This combination (Digital Elite Day) of the workshop and conference is great.

You will learn a lot of new things during the workshop. What I often see is because people spend a day together with peers or people doing similar things in other companies, (agency and client side) they have the same problems. It is also very rewarding, you can get in touch with some of your peers, you can talk about the way they do things and how they tackle certain problems. That makes real life workshops (not online training) worth every pound. You learn something, you are out of the office and you learn from your peers and nobody can disturb you.


What is the first step a digital marketer should take if they want to break into conversion rate optimisation

The most important thing if you really really want to do CRO in the way it should be done, you should be interested in the end user. If you are working in an agency, it is your client’s client.  If you are working in a company, it is your client. That is the biggest hurdle and biggest obstacle we still see today. People pretend to be customer centric but they never talk to customers, so it is really important that you have a real interest in your users. You have to go way further than the data you see in GA or even in the click and scroll heat maps. You need to have not only sympathy but empathy for your clients so it is important to do one on one user research, using targeted surveys, doing user testing.

You have to know how to do it because good user research can only succeed when the questions you ask are the right questions and  this is something you can learn during my workshop.”


Thank you Karl for your time, there are just a few tickets remaining for Digital Elite, don’t have FOMO, get yours today.

1,573 thoughts on “UX and CRO Expert Karl Gilis Shares His Insights Ahead of Digital Elite