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Aug 24, 2006
Case Study

B-to-B Home Page Design Tests to Turn More Clicks Into Accounts

SUMMARY: Does your home page already have pretty good, clean design?'s home page for employers did. Then, a newly promoted marketer decided to change it.

Discover his A/B test results (potentially worth millions in business account revenues). Includes the answer to the big design debate -- text-heavy links vs short copy with
attractive graphics:
Have you ever dreamed of testing radical changes to your company's home page, if only you had the power to do so quickly and easily?

After three years of leading one of's tech teams, Michael DeHaven grabbed the chance for a new career by switching departments to head up ecommerce marketing for the company's online sales to employers.

"The home page I inherited when I took this job over was not a bad page at all," he explains. In fact, it was very cleanly and professionally designed. (Link to sample below.) The cheerfully colored page featured a photo of a smiling woman next to big fat click buttons for each of the four main navigation options:

- Post one job now for $389
- Buy a 4-pack for $1,299
- Search resumes for $500
- Sign-in access for current account holders

"It's pretty clear what's going to happen when you click on one of those links," says DeHaven. "The issue was after you clicked. We had these huge drop-off amounts."

How can you redesign an already-ultra clear site to improve conversions?

First, DeHaven considered the overall strategy behind the navigation. "The buttons took you into the purchase process with very little information. After all, everyone knows what a job posting is, right? My first question was, is that correct?"

So, he decided to test adding a "Learn More" hotlink next to each "Buy" button to see if anyone clicked on the former and if they then converted.

DeHaven also reviewed the layout and design of the page with a tester's eye. He decided to test three significant changes:

#1. Text-format with textual hotlinks instead of colorful graphics with click buttons.

#2. Main options listed in a vertical column instead of a horizontal row.

#3. Moving the user sign-in form to a small corner in the upper right of the screen, rather than allowing it more valuable real estate.

DeHaven ran the test for a week, splitting traffic to discover which page converted more visitors into sales. He also examined back-end data to see if sales reps were having better luck converting leads that had been to the test version of the site.

Then, DeHaven used results to create one more test panel. This time he tweaked all the hotlink wording on the page to see if longer, wordier hotlinks that search engines love would be better for human beings as well. (Link to sample below.)

The design team didn't think much of this test. "Everybody who saw it internally said version C was way too crowded and there wasn't enough white space. We worried people would see it and feel overwhelmed with links."


Turns out everyone was wrong. The heavy-text version that got thumbs down internally won more customer accounts than the cleaner, more graphical design.

It seems that business executives prefer to look at fairly plain textual content online rather than cheerful graphical interfaces. Plus, they prefer vertical to horizontal groupings of options and longer, wordier textual click links.

"After I thought about it awhile, it made total sense," explains DeHaven. "Users are trained to allow their eye to scan down something that looks like search results. And what we have here now is something that looks an awful lot like search results. It's a good quick scan. Graphics and images are not what the eye's trained for online.

"It was a HUGE finding. Really exciting."

In fact, the final winning version worked so well that there was a 13% decrease in the time the average visitor spent on the page before they clicked on a navigation choice. This indicates visitors were less confused and more likely to be happy with the clickpath they entered and hence more likely to convert at the end of it.

Orders per unique visitor rose 7% overall, including immediate sales and bill-mes. That's tens of thousands of more potential revenue per month.

A few more interesting findings:

- When presented with the "buy now" vs "learn more" option, about 40% of clicks were on "learn more." These didn't always convert as well as the 'buy now' clicks, but 'learn more' registrations did produce valuable sales leads for the sales force.

- You should hotlink your headlines and product names as well as your official click links. Although headlines were not clicked all that often, they were clicked enough to be worth hotlinking.

- Moving the sign-in form for existing accounts to a less noticeable part of the page had absolutely no impact. Lesson learned, don't waste valuable marketing real estate on account holder logins.

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples of the three home page tests:

Omniture -- the Web analytics firm uses:

CareerBuilder.'s current home page for employers

See Also:

Comments about this Case Study

Aug 24, 2006 - Campbell Foster of SeamlessWeb says:
Terrific information. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard in my office, "There's not enough white space on that page...," I'd retire. I'd like a little more detail on the meaning of the Test Results Grid. Yes, the results look good, but was there enough traffic for this to be statistically significant? What was the actual % revenue increase after implementing the new page? How are Click/PV, Order/PV, Invoice/PV etc. defined? Any additional color would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Aug 24, 2006 - Shell Harris of Big Oak says:
This information is a boon to SEO companies such as ourselves. Sometimes it can be a very hard sell to use less graphics and more text. Using this study to back up our use of descriptive text links will make an SEO consultant's life easier. Thanks for providing real life stuides we can apply to our marketing efforts.

Aug 25, 2006 - Tad Clarke of MarketingSherpa says:
Sorry, but that grid wasn't supposed to be included with the creative samples and has been taken down.

Aug 29, 2006 - Bill Paarlberg of The Measurement Standard says:
I respectfully disagree with some of the analysis in your article. It seems pretty clear to me that the original page is a bit cluttered, especially with that banner ad at the top, and that second horizontal slice below it, which compete strongly for the attention of the viewer. The revised options are easier on the eye and require less looking around to settle on the link choices. Contrary to the article's assertion that the revised versions are more crowded and text heavy, note that they actually have a larger image than than the original, which calms the page down, and helps to organize it for the viewer. In addition, these pages are not proper tests of white space vs. not, or vertical column vs. not, because so many other things on the pages have changed. If you really wanted to do a proper test of those points with this page, you would leave that distracting banner ad and that "#1 Exposure" section (which really is another ad) in on all the revised versions. My guess is that those things just confused people.

Sep 18, 2006 - Tim Bradley of Marathon Media, Altadena, Calif. says:
It's curious that an article taking a website to task for presuming everyone understands "job posting" does not explain its own terms, e.g., convert, hotlink, "that search engines would love." The copy editing's a little rugged, too. As marketers, our stuff should at least be well-presented, no?

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