Homepage Optimization: Creating the best design to quickly meet multiple visitors’ needs

When it comes to designing a homepage, sometimes people forget that its purpose is to give multiple types of users what they want, and to do so as quickly as possible. After all, you only have their attention for a brief moment, and they can easily make your page disappear by simply clicking on that little “x” on the corner of their screen.

This is especially true, in the case of e-commerce Web sites — where visitors have differing motivations for visiting the page, and are probably looking for specific types of products. But, how do you effectively meet all those needs?

Well, that’s exactly what we wanted to find out during an Optimization Training Session class (which I infiltrated, by the way) taught at our labs by our Senior Optimization Manager, Adam Lapp.

This is a class where some of our newest research team members hone their optimization skills – they even have homework! But, Mr. Lapp, isn’t one of those boring, monotone-lecturing teachers who puts their students to sleep (which reminds me, I really don’t miss school). He’s that cool teacher who lets you call him by his first name. And one of his latest, fun teaching tactics included launching an e-commerce homepage optimization contest. So, I brushed up on my journalism skills and took notes to give you a report on the contest results.

THE FACE-OFF

Adam split the class into two teams, which turned into a battle of the sexes. On the ladies’ team you had Research analysts Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe and Amie Bolton. And in the guys’ team you had Dustin Eichholt and Spencer Whiting.

Their mission: Each team had to optimize the homepage for the Pajamagram Web site (which was submitted for live optimization at one of our past Web clinics on homepage optimization).  They had to come up with a treatment for the original page and present it to Adam. After stating their cases, Adam picked the team he thought best optimized the page to meet the needs of multiple visitors.
This is the original homepage:

Click to enlarge

IN THE END, IT WAS “LADIES FIRST”

When the competition was done, Zuzia and Amie took the top prize, which mostly consisted of bragging rights (and they represented for us ladies, woohoo!).

These are their winning treatments:

Treatment #1

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And treatment #2

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When Zuzia and Amie saw the original homepage, they felt it was missing that flexibility a homepage needs to have in order to meet all visitors’ needs. They felt the page focused too much on women’s pajamas, which not only excludes other potential customers who may not be searching for that, but also downplays the fact that Pajamagram actually offers options for the whole family (they even have doggie pj’s!)

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So, as you see in their treatments, they went for a more general approach. Their treatments showed visitors immediately that Pajamgram truly was a place they could find something for anyone and for any occasion.

But, they didn’t come up with their winning treatments without first analyzing in depth what was wrong with the original homepage. Using the MarketingExperiments conversion heuristic, they diagnosed each problem.

Here are their notes:

Value Analysis

•       Unclear headline; value not clearly stated

•       You can discern that you are on a pajama site where you can send them as gifts

•       It appears that only women’s pajamas are available.

•       No explanation for why you should buy from Pajamagram over competition.

Friction Analysis

•       Too many calls to action distracting the eye path.

•       The color and shape of the $50 gift set takes too much of the visitor’s attention

•       Unnecessary fields at top and bottom of page.

•       Redundant customer care links

•       Unnecessary cart links

•       The color and tone do not match the tagline of “relaxation.”

Anxiety Analysis

•       Phone number is prominent, but overshadowed by so many links around it.

•       Secure site logo is below fold, but present.

•       Testimonials can be found by digging through site.

•       Notable endorsements found on About Us page.

•       Satisfaction guarantee below fold

Incentive Analysis

•       We recommend testing all other elements first before testing incentive (our general advice for any optimization sequence)

•       Once you have a fully optimized page and find the new treatments are consistently underperforming the control, then it is time to test incentive (our general advice for any optimization sequence)

•       Incentive to test: Free gift packaging with all pajamas ordered (specific to Pajamagram).

Even though we’re focusing on the winning team, the runners up also did a great job giving the original homepage a radical redesign.

Dustin and Spencer came up with this treatment:

Click to enlarge

Obviously, this is a wire frame, not quite as polished as the ladies’ team’s designs (extra credit for Zuzia and Amie), but it’s still good.

And the guys definitely get extra credit points for thinking outside of the box. Their idea to give visitors a way to browse different collections and pick sizing right on the homepage truly gives visitors instant access to varied products and makes the selection process faster and easier. And when you have limited time to grasp visitors’ attention, ease of use is key.

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However, this is likely too limiting for a homepage. There’s hundreds if not thousands of products. Most audience members will likely not click “previous” or “next.” This would likely cause too much friction.

But if you’re looking to create a PPC landing page, take note. The above wireframe could work very well.

JUDGE’S RULING

Even though the guys had some great ideas, Adam thought the ladies pulled off their objective more effectively. And here’s why:

According to Adam, Amie and Zuzia had to ask two questions in order to design an effective homepage:

1.       What is the objective?

2.       What is the most effective way to accomplish that objective?

“In this case, the objective is to drive visitors to a product page that meets their needs, NOT to get a sale.  Their approach to effectively accomplish this objective was to create a product configuration tool or “configurator” so that they could match the next page precisely to:

  • Who the person is – man, woman, child, family
  • The relationship to the buyer – Buying for me, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, etc.
  • The recipient’s age or buyer’s age
  • A special occasion – Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, etc.

Future tests may simplify this, perhaps removing relationship or age, but the treatment design effectively accomplishes the primary objective of getting a person to a relevant product page as quickly as possible.  Also, this may not be the ’most effective‘ strategy possible, but it’s a design that offers a paradigm shift from what exists currently. The only way to determine the most effective homepage will be to launch this test, learn from it, design another test, learn from it, then repeat,”  said Adam.

(How do you think the winning team did? Did you agree with Adam’s pick? And what would you do to optimize the Pajamagram homepage? Use the comments section and share your ideas.)

Related Resources

Test Your Marketing Intuition: Do homepage pop-ups work?

Homepage Optimization: Lessons you can reuse from ReUseIt.com

Homepage Optimization: How your peers use keywords and communicate with visitors

Homepage Redesign Puts Target Sectors Front and Center: 5 Steps to 100% Lift in Key Metrics – MarketingSherpa Members’ Library

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11 Comments

  1. John Need says

    Loved the article. I’ll share with rest of the team.

    John Need
    Sr. Web Developer.
    Vermont Teddy Bear/ PajamaGram.com

  2. poppy salinger says

    very interesting for someone older like me 66, and the examples workedwell
    Thank you

  3. Maggie Holley says

    Hi,

    I agree with Adam.
    The gals page had a softer feel and was visually more ‘seamless’ to my eye- the blue pink & green & was much easier to take it ‘at a glance’ than the somewhat more jarring red of the guys page..

    As traditionally, more women look & then buy these type of items for their family, this colour scheme made more sense too.
    The ‘sizing chart’ may make more sense to a male perspective- But I also agree here- too many choices equate to ‘work’ from the visitors POV- Not a good idea!
    Interesting- and I will share with my team..

    Ladies- well Done!
    😉

  4. Harekrishna Patel says

    Very good analysis. Search box in top menu is a good idea or keep above the top menu?

  5. Kelli Dolecek says

    Wow! This article is packed with useful information on Homepage Optimization! The breakdown of how to analyze a homepage effectiveness, as well as the critical view of each homepage component is incredibly valuable information. Thanks for the “lesson”. Oh, and good for the ladies!

  6. Joelle Parra says

    Thanks to everyone for your comments! I’m glad many of you found it useful! I will make sure to let the teams know what you thought. Also, I’m working on infiltrating more classes in the future and hopefully bring you loads more of the research teams’ insights! 😉

  7. Pandy says

    I Like the way to click size.
    It’s very good analysis. It make me understand more the method and process, and how to analize, adjust and improve the page.

  8. Rob says

    Excellent insight from the team as usual!

  9. Daniel Crowley says

    Definitely agree with Adam’s choice. Also bear in mind the buying audience. In this case it is more likely to be woman, and hence having the home page set up from the feminine perspective is probably ok.

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