While at the IRWD 2013 web design and usability conference in Orlando, I was able to sit in on a lecture given by Joan King and Dan Siroker. Joan King is the E-Commerce Director, Site Management at Crate & Barrel. I absolutely love the cleanliness of Crate & Barrel's website and referred to their old navigation system in my own design projects, so I was excited to hear how the website design had become so successful.
The answer was in A/B and multivariate tests which is when an element on your website appears different to different viewers. Analytics are run on the changing variable to see which design creates more conversions. Joan King mentioned several elements that had undergone testing: simple changes in wording such as “add to cart” versus “buy,” or a check out button that was tested red, green, and black, and even the navigation system that I loved so much has undergone testing and it turns out a more traditional drop-down navigation was better. I was surprised when she mentioned conversion rates increasing by 20% due to simple changes in wording or color. Her advice to the audience was to always be testing, but do not test anything you would not want your audience to see live on your site. Also, less is more—when choices were reduced conversions generally went up and bounce rates generally came down. (That explains Crate & Barrel's clean website!)
Dan Siroker, a previous Google employee who founded Optimizely, expanded on Mrs. King's advice by saying a test should run for about two weeks in order to get well rounded data. Siroker explained the simplicity of Optimizely, which is how testing can be done without coding. Optimizely basically shows your website as individual elements and allows you to change those elements for testing. Changes are made through Optimizely, so your original website is safe. Optimizely is a service I will likely use in the future to improve my web design and usability.
I know it is odd, but whenever I go to Crate & Barrel's website I end up looking at dinnerware. I love to look at the graphics on plates and mugs, so check out the slide show for some pretty plates. If you would like to see artwork inspiring my Examiner articles visit my Pinterest board.