The user is always right (curse them)

An oft discussed but infrequently implemented feature of good web design is what we call conversion tracking. This is where you randomly offer users one of two or more versions of the same page, and then compare their relative merits at getting the users to do whatever your page is there to help them do.

A couple of weeks ago we finally started to test our first working version of conversion tracking on the homepage of HearFromYourMP. We provided two versions – the super elegent, minimalist version that had a simple, bold heading and almost nothing else, and a more verbose, text heavy version explaining what the site did.

As congenital advocate of super-simple sites, I was really hoping the public would go for the less wordy version. Did they? No, of course not – the conversion rate from visitor to subscriber was 16.5% for the simple version, and 23% for the more text filled version. Slightly gallingly, this means we might have forfeited thousands of signers since our launch in November.

So, as painful as it was, we’ve now abandoned the minimalist version, and we’re comparing two more text heavy versions. You can see the process in action if you go to HearFromYourMP and hit refresh a few times.

Over time we’ll role this out to all of our sites and a never ending ‘winner stays on’ competition will start between different versions of important pages. Maybe we could even start taking bets? 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Part of this could be perceptions…especially among first-time site visitors. Certainly a minimalist site can really appeal to some when it has already developed a very strong content value reputation (eg. google). However, if someone is surfing a new site the minimalist strategy can backfire if the user doesn’t perceive great value (sufficient site resources, significant & relevant content, etc) to the site. Unfortunately, this ‘value’ decision can be made in a split second (sometimes with just a page or two actual site experience). Site complexity can be a turn off to some…but it also can convey the sense that this is not an insignificant site to ignore.

    So, where is the balance? that’s the question for me (I run/manage a few online communities).

    You can’t hide your jewels in hopes that people will eventually click around and discover them…on the other hand you don’t want to overwhelm and turn off your visitors. Simple can be sweet but too simple is…well…probably too simple.

    I’m a fan of keeping graphic design minimal but focus on promoting content ‘teasers’ from within the site to demonstrate site value and increase conversions.