January 23, 2008
Website redesigns can be tricky -- especially when your site is your primary lead-generation tool. You don’t want to change anything that might negatively affect converting visitors into leads.
One marketer incorporated multivariate homepage and trial software download page tests into their website redesign process. The tests helped pick a winning design that increased conversions by 85.3%.
When Safe Software began planning a website redesign in 2007, Jaylene Crick, Director Marketing, had to be careful about making significant changes. The website offered Safe’s primary lead-generation tool -- a free download that lets GIS professionals evaluate its flagship product, FME software.
The team was targeting a tech-savvy audience for its spatial ETL application, which lets users extract and translate location data into multiple formats. Still, they wondered if they were giving prospects enough information to download a trial version of the software.
“We were assuming people knew what spatial ETL was, and we assumed that people knew what FME was. So, when we decided to revamp the website, we wanted to make sure we did things to increase the number of evaluations,” Crick says.
Before forging ahead with a new website, they decided to try a multivariate test to identify the best design for their homepage and software download page.
First, Crick and her team prepared for the test by evaluating their business goals. Then, they outlined several hypotheses for how website changes might influence trial software download conversion rates.
Here are the four steps they took to put those hypotheses to the test:
-> Step #1. Develop homepage designs
Crick’s team wanted to learn two things:
- Whether appealing to prospects’ familiarity with the FME product would influence their decision to download and evaluate it.
- Whether appealing to prospects’ business needs would influence evaluation software downloads.
To get the answer, they created two approaches for homepage copy and graphics: one geared toward the users’ familiarity with FME; the other geared toward prospects’ software needs.
The first approach offered a range of content for prospects with different levels of experience with FME. They included text reiterating product basics, such as “The #1 Spatial ETL Tool,” then highlighted everything from a basic explanation of spatial ETL, for novices, to key features and benefits available in the new version for those already familiar with the product.
Among the key site elements:
- New headline: “Ever wish FME worked with raster and vector data? Now it does.”
- An infographic describing spatial ETL.
- Bullet points that highlighted improvements to the 2007 version of the software, such as:
o More than 1,800 enhancements
o More than 50 new transformers, 20 specifically for raster data
o Nine new raster formats
o 15 new vector formats
o Lots more
- Call to action: “Try it out,” with a large button labeled “Free FME 2007 Eval Download.”
The second approach focused on prospects’ specific software needs and the solutions FME offered. Key elements included:
- An overview of FME as “The #1 Spatial ETL tool.”
- Bolded text that listed tasks the software can complete:
o Translate spatial data to and from different formats
o Transform spatial data to meet your needs
o Distribute data over the Web
- “Try it out” call to action, with the large “Free FME 2007 Eval Download” button.
-> Step #2. Develop alternative layouts
To test how the page layout influenced conversions, the team developed two formats to apply to the different copy approaches:
o Three-vertical column layout (fairly typical)
o Two-vertical column layout
-> Step #3. Develop alternative copy and layout for download page
Visitors who clicked the “Free FME 2007 Eval Download” button were taken to a special software download landing page. Because that page is also used as a landing page in other marketing campaigns, Crick’s team wanted to test how different design and copy variations influenced conversions.
The original page was “very technology-centric,” says Crick. Lots of text explained how to download the evaluation software. A gray button started the process. The team developed two variations with less text and more color.
o Simplified call to action, with one large box in center of the page that featured an orange “Download Now – Free” button
o Copy that highlighted the benefits of the trial period – “Download now and you’ll get 14 days of full-featured FME 2007, no restrictions”
o Testimonial quote from a client
o The same orange “Download Now – Free” button
o Hero shot of a young, engineer-type sitting with a laptop
o Customer testimonial
o Copy that reiterated the product’s key benefits, such as “Easily translate spatial data to and from different formats”
-> Step #4. Run multivariate page test
The team ran a multivariate test for 13 days to generate statistically significant data and account for traffic variations by day of the week. During that time, traffic was split evenly between the existing homepage and all variations of the homepage design (copy approach and two- or three-column format).
The existing product download page was evaluated against the two new designs.
The team ran the test for 13 days, but the winning design became apparent within a few days. Results weren’t what Crick and her team expected. “We were quite shocked by the winners.”
- The best homepage design: Copy approach that targeted prospects based on their familiarity with FME, but in a two-column layout. That format required the team to drop the spatial ETL infographic, and instead focus on new features of the latest version. It increased conversions of the control page by 85.3%.
Crick and her team had expected the three-column layout to be the best performer. “We thought it wasn’t as visually pleasing as the [three-column] one. Also, our target audience is GIS professionals, and we felt they’d want a lot of detail and a wordy homepage.”
Jamey Gillis, Safe’s webmaster, adds: “Good thing we don’t go by feelings.”
- The best product download page: Version 1, which featured a simplified call to action and minimal text. It increased conversions over the control page by 20.2%.
Again, Crick and her team were surprised. “We would have bet that prospects needed to know more about FME and what it is to be convinced to download.”
Crick and her team immediately put the winning homepage and download page designs in place while they continued with their website redesign. Since then, they’ve changed the homepage slightly to incorporate other design elements, but they are now conducting an ongoing series of smaller multivariate tests to determine the impact of those changes and optimize their design.
“We are absolutely happy with the process,” Crick says. “It’s sparked a new interest in how we approach doing changes to the website going forward. We don’t have to wait four years to do another redesign.”
Useful links related to this article
Creative samples from Safe Software’s design tests:
WiderFunnel - helped plan and implement the multivariate test:
Google Website Optimizer - used to analyze test results: