Site Compatibility Tested

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Test Number: #080501-SD

Word Count: 3400+

Focus: 12 Questions

  1. How well did our 4 test sites perform?
  2. How important is it for your site to be compatible with the different browsers and operating systems?
  3. How can you use this report to improve your conversion ratio and increase your sales?
  4. Which screen resolutions are being used by your site visitors?
  5. Which browsers are being used by our site visitors?
  6. Which major browser/resolution combinations should you test your site in?
  7. Which operating systems are being used by our site visitors?
  8. Which major operating systems should you test your site in?
  9. What are the 7 primary causes of display errors and what can you do to prevent them?
  10. How do you use “trial and error” testing to correct your display problems?
  11. If you cannot correct a display problem yourself, how can you get professional assistance?
  12. How can you test your site in all of these systems without spending thousands of dollars in software and equipment?

060501-AWA – We study 600 awards sites to select and test the top performers.

Can you attract traffic by winning recognition? What does it take to win? How do you prepare your site? What is the easiest way to submit?

Editors Note: We are still working on this test. We will publish the results just as soon as feel we have conclusive data.

Test Summary

We tested 5 major web sites on 14 different computer systems to determine the impact of design compatibility on conversion ratios.

Test Product

We deliberately sampled a diversity of products.

MERCHANT A – Terry Dean’s BizPromo.Com
MERCHANT B – FairMeasures.Com
MERCHANT C – MarketingExperiments.Com
MERCHANT D – We-Build-Dreams.Com
MERCHANT E – Patio-Swings.Com

Test Costs

A detailed explanation is presented at the end of Section 2, but our total labor was 120 hours.

What if you could increase your sales by 25% to 40% – without changing your ad copy, without reducing your price, and without spending one dollar more to attract new traffic?

We suspect that, among that rare tribe of serious marketers, there are certain mathematical rituals, some so intuitive, they are practiced, from day one, even by the neophyte.

Take, for instance, the simple (and often deceptive) visits-to-revenue calculation. Who among this ever-eager group of web salesman has not scratched down their total receipts and then divided it by the number of unique visits to their offer page?

MarketingExperiments.comAnd who, upon deducing the tepid sum (typically less than 1%), has not experienced the all too common “marketing funk” – a pervading malady characterized by a vague mix of disappointment and confusion? “What is wrong… how could so many people disdain this worthy product?”

With such questions, the long journey to digital enlightenment begins. Is the copy too long; or is it too short? Is the price too high; or is it too low? Are the graphics appealing? Are the testimonials credible?

Often they (we) charge off blindly, testing multiple variables at once – So that even success, modest though it may be, is tainted with a fuzzyuncertainty. We know what we did wrong, but we are not sure what we did right.

Here at the Marketing Experiments Journal we are acutely aware of how difficult it can be to truly evaluate a promotional tactic. But one thing is for certain…

It does not matter what you write, if it cannot be read.

We recently discovered a simple, but eminently tangible way to improve your results. It began with a simple question:

Could marketers be so focused on their digital message that they are neglecting to test (or retest) their site’s compatibility across multiple platforms?

After all, there at least 17 million people cruising the web without Microsoft’s venerable Explorer. Just how many of our visitors are clicking on a contorted, HTML skewed version of the offer page? (*1)

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If we could “translate” our site for these additional visitors, we should be able to increase our sales without changing our message (or our price).

So we tested 4 sites using 14 different browser/system/resolutions/text combinations. Here is what we learned.

How well did our test sites perform?

Note: You can see screenshots for these tests in the Marketing Experiments Lab.

Bizpromo.Com

Terry Dean is a respected Internet writer and marketing expert. We felt his site would serve as an excellent test model. And it did prove to be compatible with most systems, but we found 2 display related errors:

  1. On AOL 6.0, the page skewed right.
  2. On Opera 2, the black background dropped out.

Terry is a veteran. He would probably have corrected these problems without the benefit of our test results. In any event… his site scored better than ours.

FairMeasures.Com

FairMeasures.com provides managers with the information they need to prevent costly employee lawsuits. The site is professional and well respected. We found just three display related errors.

  1. In Internet Explorer 5.5, the background image disappeared.
  2. In WebTV, the site’s fonts changed and the page expanded well beyond a typical reader’s scrolling comfort. (*2)
  3. In AOL 6, there were minor header errors.

Earlier, we noted other IE problems related to Windows 98. Our team, as a matter of courtesy, notified the site and those errors were quickly corrected. Bravo. We are certain the FairMeasures.Com designers are correcting these last three glitches, as well.

MarketingExperiments.Com

We tested our own (beloved) Journal — and it failed rather miserably. This was due, in part, to the operating system on which we conducted our original tests – Windows 98.

Being too fainthearted to hazard W-2000, and not being particularly fond of W-NT, we have remained with W-98. Our site displayed flawlessly on our own system – even in various browsers. But on other systems it was a contorted disaster.

Who would have “thunk” it?

Our Lead Designer is extremely competent, but it took nearly 70 hours of intense work to correct the problem.

We tested and (finally) identified these three major problems…

  1. We used the underscore key to underline. This forced our tables to expand in different operating systems.

    SOLUTION: We replaced our underscores with line images.

  2. We used nested tables that were constrained only by their absolute and relative table and cell values.

    SOLUTION: We changed the table structure and inserted transparent images to serve as “spacers”.

  3. We used a background image that could not correct itself if the table expanded.

    SOLUTION: We replaced the background image with a background color.

In the final analysis, our original table structure was not stable enough. So we created and tested 3 new templates, then we replaced every page.

EDITORS NOTE: We have tested this site. Several times. Apparently, recent (fairly minor) changes caused this latest debacle. We have now scheduled a new test every 90 days.

We-Build-Dreams.Com

Bob and Sheila Martin of White Rock, British Columbia publish a popular ezine for network marketers. Their website was designed in MS FrontPage. It features books, tapes, and videos.

We found the site to be too wide for these browsers:

  1. AOL 6.0 – 1024 X 768
  2. IE 5.5 – 800 X 600
  3. Netscape 4.6 – 800 X 600
  4. Opera 2 – 800 X 600

We don’t know what system the site was designed on, but the error pattern indicates that it could have been a MAC. The default resolution for a MAC is 1024 X 768.

How do these errors impact Bob and Sheila’s income? Well based on the latest numbers, more than 80% of the visitors to their site are forced to scroll sideways to read all of the content.

If the site were generating $10,000 per month, and if just 20% of its visitors were leaving in frustration, these errors could be costing as much as $6000 per quarter.

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We really don’t know how much the site generates (probably less than our projection), and so this is pure speculation, but the principle is clear.

EDITORS NOTE: We appreciate this group. They have been kind to the Journal, and we wish them well as they tackle these (obnoxious) compatibility issues.

Patio-Swings.com

We chose this site because it seemed a classic representation of the average “Mom And Pop” e-store. The main page was distorted in at least thesefour system combinations:

  1. AOL, Version 6.O – 1024 x 768
  2. IE, Version 5.5 – 1024 x 768
  3. IE, Version 5.5 – 800 x 600
  4. Netscape, Version 4.7 800 x 600

Our team identified several errors. Here are three:

  1. The designer did not make their background image wide enough; it repeated itself on higher resolutions.
  2. The designer used center tags in their tables. AOL seems to loathe center tags.
  3. The designer did not shim the cells in the left table, This caused problems in Netscape. They should have (at least) placed a “$nbsp” in the left cell to keep it from being “crushed” by the NS demons.

It is important to note that, though the site’s text bled into the margins, most of the message could still be read. And if this seems encouraging, we must remember that a consumer measures the quality of your offering and your service by the quality of your site. It is not enough for the message to be read; it must be credible.

How important is it for your site to be compatible with the different browsers and operating systems?

Let’s examine the impact of these compatibility issues on MarketingExperiments.Com. Here is an inside peek at the site stats for the surfers who visited the Journal in the 31 days of July:

Operating System Percentage
Windows 98 47.07%
Windows 2000 26.01%
Windows Me 10.13%
Windows NT 5.74%
Macintosh PowerPC 5.49%
Windows 95 5.43%
Linux 0.06%
Web TV 0.06%

The implications are grave. When you calculate the incompatible versions of Windows, we determine that a full 42% of our visitors may have experienced serious display problems. (*3)

And this only addresses windows users. There are some 5.5 million surfers on the net who use a different operating system. Apple still makes up 12% of the market. And WebTV is also growing in popularity, especially among the elderly and disabled

How can you use this report to improve your conversion ratio and increase your sales?

Before you “fine-tune” your copy, before you “tinker” with your price, or before you “spruce up” you graphics… we suggest that you thoroughly test your web site.

Here we must defer to our original premise:

It does not matter what you write, if it cannot (or will not) be read.

Testing your site should be among your top priorities. There may not be an easier way to improve your “bottom line”.

If you have secured a Lab Pass to MarketingExperiments.Com, you can login and read an expanded report that provides answers to these key questions:

  • Which screen resolutions are being used by your site visitors?
  • Which browsers are being used by our site visitors?
  • Which major browser/resolution combinations should you test your site in?
  • Which operating systems are being used by our site visitors?
  • Which major operating systems should you test your site in?
  • What are the 7 primary causes of display errors and what can you do to prevent them?
  • How do you use “trial and error” testing to correct your display problems?
  • If you cannot correct a display problem yourself, how can you get professional assistance?
  • How can you test your site in all of these systems without spending thousands of dollars in software and equipment?

We have discovered a way for you to save $4500 and test your site on more than a dozen systems.

Section 2 (Continue…)

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