Site Design 2 Tested

Section 2 (Analysis)


So we ask (once again) how can you analyze your home page to determine if it is under-performing? How can you be sure to maximize your yield per visit? What can you do to increase the visitor penetration levels of your site?

Researchers at MarketingExperiments.Com have developed a twenty two-step Site Diagnostic Tool that can help a “Web Doctor” determine “what ails” a home page. In Part 1 of this study, we examined six of these diagnostics. In Part 2, we will examine nine more of these Level 1 questions.

As a Lab Pass Holder, you are entitled to access this critical data. If you feel you need professional assistance, click here.

DIAGNOSTIC 7: Are too many options being presented?

This is a common mistake. As sites grow they tend to bloat. It is very critical that you simplify the decision path for your visitors. Ideally, you create a funnel so that every road leads to your primary offering(s). For instance, a sub-path might be the sign up for a newsletter. This is acceptable, because the newsletter can loop back to the site’s main offering in at least two ways:

  1. By using the confirmation page to re-emphasize the benefits of the main offering.
  2. By using the regular issues to build credibility and re-introduce the readers to the primary offering.

By the term “primary offering”, we are referring to the main objective of the site. It may be connected with a retail purchase, a sign up for a paid service, etc.

Beware of decision clutter, e.g. multiple affiliate programs, banners, links, etc…

DIAGNOSTIC 8: How much information is the prospect required to “absorb” in one screen?

The amount of information that can be effectively presented per screen is dependent upon several factors. Here are three:

  1. The appeal of your site – A pure information site, like the Marketing Experiments Journal, attracts a different type of visitor than a standard retail site. You have to study your customer demographic to determine the proper volume of information.
  2. The organization of your site – Is your material clustered correctly (See DIAGNOSTIC 9)?
  3. The eyepath of your site – An effective eyepath can help the visitor absorb far more material.

DIAGNOSTIC 9: How is the information being grouped on the screen, “itself” is it being correctly clustered in “digestible” bits?

Strategically placed bold, colored, highlighted, italicized, or enlarged fonts can help to organize content for the reader. Beware of long paragraphs on the Internet. Use bullets, headers, and white space. Let the page breathe.

Consider making your first sentence a topic sentence (yes, we are hearkening back to your freshmen year essays). Use your first sentence as a skeleton and then use the balance of the paragraph to provide the meat.

Beware of too many prepositions.

Your sentences should either raise a question (to prep the reader’s mind and heighten interest) or they should answer a question previously raised.

If you are interested in writing for the Net, you may want to bypass the plethora of web experts and buy a 50 year old book: “The Elements Of Style” by Strunk And White.

Alas, you will have to resort to a hard copy, it was written before the digital revolution.

DIAGNOSTIC 10: Is your information flow natural and intuitive?

Pay careful attention to the order in which you present your information. Prepare your reader for the main point, and then give them a set of mental handles. “Preparing your reader” refers to how you structure the delivery of your information. “Mental handles” refers to how you utilize simple headers, bullets, charts, etc. to help the reader quickly scan, grasp, and recall your information. Here is an example of a mentally “ergonomic” approach:


  1. Emphasize a relevant problem with a direct or implied question.
  2. Promise the reader a workable solution.
  3. Lay out the solution, either in its basic PARTS or its chronological STEPS.
  4. OPTIONAL: Support your points with explanation, illustration, or proof.
  5. Summarize your solution.
  6. OPTIONAL: Apply your solution with a clear way for the reader to make the solution actionable.

This simple formula is applicable to many (if not most) web presentations including, home page messages, product descriptions, case histories, company overviews, white papers, newsletters, etc.

DIAGNOSTIC 11: Is the prospects attention being focused on the right elements, in the right order?

Although this DIAGNOSTIC may appear to repeat the previous point, it is different. While DIAGNOSTIC 10 refers to information (copy), DIAGNOSTIC 11 refers to the elements of the site and how they relate to each other. Copy is just one of several elements, including:

Brand (logo)

Sweepstakes Entry

Ezine Signup

Body Copy

Order Button

Each of these elements should be viewed in a specific order. They not compete for the reader’s attention. This creates the deadly malady, “site muddle”.

DIAGNOSTIC 12: Has each element of the page been successively “weighted”?

Each of your key elements should be listed and prioritized. This ranking can be expressed in percentiles. Here is an example.

Order Button 30%
Sweepstakes Entry 15%
Ezine Signup 15%
Body Copy 30%
Brand 10%

These percentiles represent how much of the readers attention each element should attract. The rankings fairly subjective but they are extremely helpful in designing an effective layout. They force the marketer to make tough decisions. They also underscore the need to focus, focus, focus. Less is more.

DIAGNOSTIC 13: Are you deliberately using the 5 Key Design factors to distribute visual impact?

How do you focus the visitor’s attention with varying degrees of visual impact? How can you affect the priorities assigned to each of your site elements? There are five ways:

  1. Placement
  2. Size
  3. Color
  4. Shape
  5. Motion

DIAGNOSTIC 14: Are there too many “clicks” between the purchase decision and the product delivery?

Beware of structuring your Navigation too many levels deep. For example, if there are too many clicks between the purchase decision and the completed order, you will experience increased shopping cart abandonment. For more information, see our article: Order Forms Tested.

As a general rule, the more shallow a page is in the nav structure, the more likely it will be read. This is why the home page is so critical. Note the following table from the previous report on this subject:

Number Of Visits to Home Page Number Of Visits To Most Popular Interior Page
SITE A 22,776 11,112
SITE B 27,650 11,359
SITE C 15,808 2,106
SITE D 22,627 5,679

What you need to UNDERSTAND: On average, the home page received 66% more visits than the most popular interior page. That means that the home pages of these sites were seen by (at least) twice as many people. Products featured on the home page of SITE A outsold items featured elsewhere by 250%.

DIAGNOSTIC 15: Is the site configured, with the latest standards, for maximum load times and minimal resolutions?

In a recent study, we asked twelve questions regarding site compatibility. Four of these are very relevant to this study.


> Which screen resolutions are being used by your site visitors?

This table represents the visitors to test site C: (*4)
1. 1600×1200 1.83%
2. 1280×1024 2.66%
3. 1152×864 2.90%
4. 1024×768 40.01%
5. 800×600 38.89%
6. 640×480 4.14%
7. Other Non-Standard Resolutions 9.57%

> Which browsers are being used by our site visitors?

This table represents the visitors to test site C:
1. Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.x 71.75%
2. Netscape 4.x 10.34%
3. Microsoft Internet Explorer v.? 9.99%
4. Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.x 3.66%
5. Netscape 6.x 0.95%
6. Netscape 5.x 0.12%
7. Opera 2 0.12%
8. WebCopier 1 0.06%

> Which major browser/resolution combinations should you test your site in?

This table represents the visitors to test site C:
1. WebTV Viewer, 2.0 N/A
2. Internet Explorer, 4.5 1024×768 pixel screen
3. Internet Explorer, 5.0 1024×768 pixel screen
4. Netscape Navigator, 4.7 1024×768 pixel screen
5. Netscape Navigator, 6.0 1024×768 pixel screen
6. AOL, Version 6.0 1024×768 pixel screen
7. Opera, Version 5.0 800×600 pixel screen
8. Netscape Navigator, 4.7 640×480 pixel screen
9. Netscape Navigator, 4.7 800×600 pixel screen
10. Netscape Navigator, 6.0 800×600 pixel screen
11. Internet Explorer, 4.0 800×600 pixel screen
12. Internet Explorer, 5.5 800×600 pixel screen
13. Internet Explorer, 5.5 1024×768 pixel screen
14 Internet Explorer, 5.5 1024×768 pixel screen, large fonts

> Which browsers are being used across the Internet?

This table reflects actual numbers as they are reflected across the Entire Net
1. Netscape 15,300,613
2, Web TV 1,133,378
3. Opera 566,689
4. IE 39,688,256

Nearly 17 Million people use a browser other than Internet Explorer.

___________________End Quote

For more data on this topic, read the full experiment: Site Compatibility Tested.

DIAGNOSTIC 16: Have your graphics achieved optimal compression?

Our lead designers suggest that the maximum weight of your page be not more than 45 kilobytes. It is critical to achieve optical images. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. If your image has soft edges, gradual color changes, or if your image is a photograph, your best format is JPEG (Joint Photographers Experts Group.)
  2. If you image has repeat patterns, line art, or hard edges, your best format is GIF (Graphics Interchange Format).
  3. For image optimization we recommend Adobe’s ImageReady 3.0 and Macromedia’s Fireworks 4.0.

The balance of our diagnostic questions is related to the HTML coding of your site… and we will discuss these factors when we report on our search engine experiments.


  1. Read our article, “Transparent Marketing“.
  2. Read Jacob Nielsen’s “Top Ten New Mistakes Of Web Design“.
  3. Read reader comments on poor web design here.
  4. Visit – Is the combination of usability and government an oxymoron? Not in this case. Check out this site here.

Review the Endnotes

(*1) We are impressed with the Management Team of Site A, and we are grateful for their participation in this project. We predict that they will rapidly improve their site’s performance.

::Back to Section 1::

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