It’s not too difficult for an experienced conversion optimization consultant to look at a horrid web design and have a strong feeling as to what changes will result in higher conversion rates. But when the original design is beautiful and already nails best practices, even expert intuition is good for nothing more than a hypothesis. Testing is essential.
This was the case when SmartWool came to Blue Acorn with the desire to carefully and systematically redesign various pages on their site. As it stood, their site was already beautiful, but that wasn’t enough. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing any of their products, you know they value form AND function. The SmartWool team is very open to the idea of testing different page layouts to see which one works best for their visitors. One of the first pages we tested was the category page. Due to its high position in the conversion funnel, it receives a lot of traffic, meaning we would see results from a test quickly.
We collaborated with SmartWool’s team and came up with a brand new design that looked great–it was unique and aesthetically pleasing. The new design showcased product images in varying sizes. It broke up the repetition of images aligned in equal size rows—and we all loved it. Despite how fantastic we thought it looked, both companies wanted to test the new category page against a variation that was less unique and more in line with the e-commerce best practice of repetition. Using repetitive image attributes enables better eye tracking when scanning a number of products.
Our goal for this test was increasing average revenue per visitor. We hypothesized that changing the category page layout to feature all of its product images in a repetitive fashion and in the same size will result in a higher average revenue per visitor.
The results were quite a surprise. Despite its more ordinary aesthetic, the variation category page (B) yielded a 17.1% increase in average revenue per visitor after testing 25,000 visitors with a statistical significance of 95%.
So what do these findings mean? Making a product image bigger may lead to more clicks on the product, but that doesn’t always guarantee checkout. More visitors might end up on product pages for products they don’t necessarily want to purchase, which means getting to the product page of a product they do want will require extra clicks and extra time, or added friction. The key word, though, is might. It was always possible for A to perform better, which is why testing is essential.
Use a redesigned look and feel as one benchmark on a continual process of optimization. Learn how your visitors are reacting to the new user experience, and strive to improve key points in the conversion funnel on an ongoing basis.
It's important to strike a balance between company brand principles and optimization. Make sure to test variations on an experience that play well with your brand guidelines and values, and that would have a strong chance of being implemented if they prove winners.