Daniel Beulah

The 5 Major Factors to Look for When Evaluating a Website

April 23rd, 2015

Recently, MECLABS Institute, parent company of MarketingExperiments, distributed an internal survey to find out what elements or factors people consider when evaluating a website for the following attributes:

  • Appearance of the website
  • Clarity of the information provided
  • Timeliness of completing purchase
  • Ease of placing an order or making account changes on the site
  • Ease of navigating the website

To do this, the team that distributed the survey asked five open questions and allowed responders to answer them as they chose. After each question, they asked the responders to rank their top three factors or elements that correlated with the question asked.

In total, there were 13 anonymous responders that the team estimated were almost evenly split between MECLABS’ content production team and our services department, which actively builds, tests and evaluates websites on a daily basis.

After the distribution team received the results, they looked at the most commonly mentioned element or function and determined which elements are the most important when reviewing a website.

They took the results and used a word cloud to visually represent the answers. To that end, the three most commonly mentioned factors on the whole survey were:


When looking at the totality of a website, people want information that is clear and easy to understand while allowing them to see the value of the website and its services.

In order to find out the important elements or factors that affect the evaluation of a webpage, the distribution team asked the following questions and received the following answers.

Note: The answers to each of the following survey questions have been broken into categories. These categories were not part of the survey’s original questions but are themes determined by the distribution team in order to organize the results.

Also, the question and answers concerned with layout (located under “Appearance of the website”) are different than the category layout. The question and answers refer to the layout of a webpage as a whole, whereas the layout category refers to the layout of that specific element of a website.


Appearance of the website

What factors or elements do you consider when judging the appearance of a website?


  • Whitespace, visual spacing of elements, balanced elements, minimalistic, simplicity, organization of information, clear eye path, easily scannable


  • Clear funnel, easy to find what I’m looking for, clean navigation, thought sequence


  • Value, clarity, typos, readability, clear and concise copy, clarity of message


  • Color, real versus stock images, pleasing to the eye, aesthetically pleasing, datedness, modern


  • Functionality, up-to-date framework

The most common factor when determining the appearance of a website is its layout. It’s important to balance visual elements with the whitespace of the webpage to create a clear eye path that directs you into the elements you really want people to spend more time viewing.

Layout was the most commonly used term when answering this question, but another equally important factor mentioned by the responders was how dated versus how modern a website is.

You can have a great layout, but if it doesn’t age well, it will negatively affect the overall feel of your website. Be sure to talk with your designers about new design trends and which ones you should incorporate into your webpage.


Clarity of information provided  

What factors or elements do you consider when judging the clarity of information on a website?


  • Easy to read, language used, confusing words, voice, language that is easy to understand


  • Size and spacing, proper use of spacing, format and layout of text, presentation of content, aesthetically pleasing, organization of content, images and illustrations to understand complex information


  • Syntax and grammar, credibility, evidentials, quantification

Amount of content/Flow of content

  • Amount of detail, value, brevity, relevancy, simplicity, scannability, clear headlines/sub headlines and supporting content, bold messaging/hierarchy of content

The most common factor in determining the clarity of information on a website is (no surprise here) content.

One responder stated:

Is the content legible and easy to read? If we don’t have this, then internalizing that information will be much more difficult. Typography choices can affect this significantly. Serif fonts are better on the eyes for large blocks of text versus titles, for example. If the material is dense, is it digestible through use of appropriate headings and sub headings? Voice is also important. Generally speaking, a message that can be conveyed in few words is better than more as well.

Make sure your writing is easy to read, and placed in a layout that allows the website visitor to easily scan the page for the most important information to them.


Timeliness of completing purchase

What factors or elements in regards to time on a site affect your satisfaction with that site?


  • Does it work, load time, intuitive functionality, quick load/response times, working/functioning properly

Pages/Time to complete transaction

  • Page numbers required, quick checkout, time to complete transaction

Ease of navigating

  • Easy to find what I’m looking for, get what I was looking for, relevance, easily find answers, ease of adding to cart, ease of finding product


  • Other relevant products to browse, allows for easy viewing, purchasing multiple items in one place


  • Amount of content, informative, confusion, quick and easy to understand message

The most important element that affects the time users spent on the site was functionality. Does the site work? How quickly can I find what I am looking for? Does the site use breadcrumbs to lead users to answers of frequently asked questions about your products or services?

To that end, another important factor is convenience:

 I will spend much more time on a website if I am also interested in other products that I may not need, but I may as well purchase them now while I’m here. The convenience is a huge factor here, and the ability to make one purchase for all of my needs will trump nine out of 10 websites, as long as the cost is within a feasible range.


Ease of placing an order on a website

What factors or elements do you consider when judging the ease of placing your order or making account changes on a website?


  • Does it work, expedited payment options, one-click purchase, ability to autofill information, remembering my information


  • Security and validation issues, security, protected information, security of process


  • Easy to pay, easy to add to cart, length of process, amount of steps, simplicity of process, easy access to account settings, asking necessary information for order, clear steps and navigation


  • Design, scanability, spacing and clarity to avoid clutter


  • Visible cart, clear summary of when I should receive my order, clear price displayed on my charge, review order page, confirmation page, simplicity, CTA clarity

The shopping cart adds factors from the three previous elements, with the most important factor being functionality.

Does the website make it clear what I have to do in order to purchase a product? Is what I have to do and why easily displayed in a correct layout that leads you down the purchasing funnel after you’ve decided to make a purchase?

These elements affect bounce rates as well as the time it takes to complete an order. Invest in making your shopping cart experience as seamless as possible.


Ease of navigation on a website

What factors or elements do you consider when judging the ease of navigating on a website?


  • No pop ups, search functionality


  • Visibility of all relevant content, clarity of what the categories are for navigation, number of options, type of options, sequence of options, hierarchy, few clicks as possible to get to what I need, simplicity, sight navigation, structural organization, easy to find navigation tool


  • Breadcrumbs, amount of information, concise words, clear, intuitive, ease of moving backward, simplicity

According to our responders, a website’s navigation should be intuitive without the use of pop-ups or java over-lays. It should be logical with clarity concerning what the categories are for navigation, and the user should able to easily find the main navigation piece of the website.

Simple navigation is key. It should appear throughout the website regardless of what page it’s on.


Note: The internal survey mentioned in this post was based off of a 2015 J.D. Powers survey on wireless purchase experience.


You might also like

B2B Web Optimization: 140% surge in mobile transactions through responsive design effort (MarketingSherpa case study)

New Chart: Best website design, management and optimization tactics for 2011 (MarketingSherpa case study)

20 Steps to the Perfect Website Layout (from Creative Bloq)

The Big Web Design Trends for 2015 (from 99 Designs)

40+ Best Examples of Shopping Cart Page Designs (from MonsterPost)

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Categories: Site Design Tags: , , , , ,

Austin McCraw

Direct vs. Indirect Creative: Which ad is better?

April 20th, 2015

Most people spend their lives trying to avoid ads. Not me. This may make me a complete marketing nerd, but I actually enjoy reading ads. I have for some time now. I love studying the different approaches of persuasive communication. I love attempting to uncover the underlying value propositions under each ad. I love just seeing how other marketers are attempting to communicate value to their potential customers.

Recently, I was on a Delta flight to San Diego, and I began to sift through the different ads in the Delta Sky Magazine. The first ad that caught my attention was an ad from Little Caesars. Now, I am no Little Caesars expert by any means, but its brand real estate in my brain up to that point was simply this: We do cheap pizza.

This ad was trying to combat that perception in a decently creative way.


Ad #1: The creative (indirect) type

The ad was mostly made up of white space (or perhaps orange space). The first positive thing about this ad was that it stood out from the other pages. It also had one bold image in the middle — an industrial mixer. A single line of ALL CAPS text centered beneath the mixer simply stated, “Saving the commercial mixer from becoming extinct.”


Now, there are very few elements to this ad. Its creative is simple and elegant. Its creative also takes an indirect communication approach. David Ogilvy (widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising”) would be proud.

What are they trying to say by putting a big picture of a commercial mixer? What do you think the implied value proposition is? What is the message underneath the creative approach?


Ad #2: The bold (direct) type

OK, so now flip a few pages, and you’re hit by a completely different ad that takes a more direct communication approach. It is an ad for a watch — G-SHOCK. I personally have no familiarity with the brand, but I am familiar with similar watch ads.


Like the first ad, there is one main image. However, the image is of the actual watch. It is not, like the previous ad, an image of something responsible for the building of the watch. This is already more “in your face.”

The image is also significantly larger; there is very little open space.

There is a larger headline that states, “The world’s first GPS atomic solar hybrid,” and then below,  in small print, the ad presents all of the details associated with both the “toughness” and the “accuracy” of the watch itself.

Again, what are they trying to say? What is the implied value proposition? What is the message underneath this direct approach?


Direct creative vs. indirect creative

Now, here’s my question: Which ad is better? We have two completely different approaches. One is direct, in your face, not nuanced and has very little “creativity.”  The other is indirect, simple, elegant and very creative.

So, which approach is better?

Many of us have our preferences. The inner-Ogilvy in me would esteem Little Caesars’ elegance. The inner-Rosser Reeves in me would celebrate the directness of the G-SHOCK.

However, the answer to this question does not lie in the actual creative itself. It is found in our ability to see underneath the creative. It transcends the two approaches. It touches what we call the “value proposition.” This is also what Rosser Reeves called the Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) or what David Ogilvy called the Basic Selling Proposition (B.S.P.). It is that fundamental, essential proposition you are trying to imply with your creative.


Seeing through the creative

Forget the approach (direct vs. indirect) for a moment. What is it that the Little Caesars ad is implying about its pizza? What is Little Caesars’ value proposition?

Ultimately, they are trying to say something along the lines of, “This pizza is fresh and good.”

Now, look at the other ad, and decide what the G-SHOCK is trying to say about its watch. What is this watch’s value proposition?

Ultimately, G-SHOCK is trying to state that its watch is tough and accurate.

Putting creative approaches aside and focusing on the value proposition, which of these ads is more powerful now?

While you’re thinking about that, here’s the point: You don’t evaluate an ad’s effectiveness primarily by its creative approach. You evaluate an ad by its value proposition and the effectiveness by which it clearly communicates (through whatever creative approach) its value proposition.

At the end of the day, it is less about “how” they are saying it and more about “what” they are saying. This “what” will be the true force behind the success (or failure) of either of these two ads. As marketers, we have to be as good at the “what” as we are at the “how.”  We have to learn to transcend the approach and find the essence that has the greatest customer force.

And for what it’s worth, the G-SHOCK ad is 10 times better.


You might also like

Value Proposition for Startups: 3 questions every startup must have the courage to answer [More from the blogs]

Value Proposition: 4 questions every marketer should ask about value prop [More from the blogs]

Marketing Optimization: 4 steps to discovering your value proposition and boosting conversions [More from the blogs]

MECLABS Value Proposition Development online course

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Andrea Johnson

How to Improve Email Performance by Using the Right Words in the Right Order

April 16th, 2015

Email is more important than ever before. Consider these statistics:

However, even if you have the finest email distribution technology reaching the most thoughtfully developed and segmented email list, if the recipient deletes the email instantly, it’s all for naught. In contrast, if recipients consistently open your emails, read them and take action, you’ll see results.

That’s why knowing how to write a strong email subject line is critical.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert copywriter to do it. You just need to know the elements that have been proven to drive more opens and clickthroughs.

To find out what they are, be sure to watch the most recent MarketingExperiments Web clinic. It examines multiple subject line experiments and several live tests, while outlining what worked, what didn’t and why. Within 30 minutes, you’ll have the knowledge you need to start writing winning subject lines.

We’ll examine two experiments from the clinic here:


Background: A regional marketing commission that has been anonymized.

Goal: To raise awareness of local activities and events to increase the number of travelers and tourists.

Research Question: Which subject line will generate the most opens and clickthrough?

Test Design: A/B split test (protected)

Note: Boston was the substitute city used for this presentation.


Experiment #1


The Control asked recipients if they’re a fall foodie and then invited them to see what’s going on in the region.

The Treatment used words that are tangible; you can almost taste the flavors of the city. This tempted recipients by immediately inviting them to partake in a uniquely Bostonian dining experience.

Read more…

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Jessica Lorenz

How Design Impacts User Experience: Reducing anxiety by infusing your page with value

April 13th, 2015

In the age of free content, how can you capture leads and foster a relationship with people that consume the articles, videos and updates on your site?

Site design and the quality of content you produce can strongly influence the way that people engage with your site.

Using an example from the Harvard Business Review, we can see an example of a layout infused with value for the user.

First, the Harvard Business Review lets users read up to five articles before asking for a commitment. This allows visitors to get a sense of the breadth and quality of content so they can ensure that they’re getting a valuable experience.

Let’s review the overall look, feel and strategy of its registration process and design as well as examine how it impacts the visitor throughout the registration process.


Paywall page

After reading the fifth article, the user is given two options: Register for free in exchange for more information, or subscribe to the all-access version.

Let’s take a look at how the page is laid out.


First, look at the white space.

Can you feel the fresh air?

S – p – a – c – e

The simplicity of the page creates a “no pressure” feeling and lets the visitor know that they aren’t seeing an ad or being urged to make a decision.

However, you can clearly see the two defined calls-to-action, separated by a thin gray line.

Both sides indicate some level of value. However, the paid option has an image and lists several more bullet points worth of advantages over the free option.

Read more…

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John Tackett

A/B Testing: What choices does your content really influence?

April 9th, 2015

Some tests and their results provide the opportunity to open up bigger discussions.

They are true diamonds in the rough that reveal some interesting insights about not only customers, but also us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes a small look inward can have a big impact out the look outward.

In today’s MarketingExperiments blog post, I wanted to share with you an interesting experiment from a recent Web clinic that increased lead rate 331% by optimizing the company’s value exchange experience with prospects.


Background: Migraine Treatment Centers of America offers an innovative long-term migraine treatment solution to people suffering from migraines.

Goal: To increase leads from the microsite.

Primary Research Question: Which value exchange strategy will result in a higher conversion rate?

Test Design: A/B multifactor split


The MECLABS Institute research team hypothesized that one of the biggest problems with the control was it did not effectively connect momentum created by the content to the next logical step in the conversion process.

Simply put, the site had content and it had calls-to-action, but the problem was a substantial break in continuity between them.

  Read more…

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Paul Cheney

Here’s Why Most A/B Testing is Boring and Not Really Worth the Trouble

April 6th, 2015

Do a quick Google search on “things to a/b test on a website,” scan the results for a moment, then come back and read the rest of this article.

Most of you reading this are marketers, so you know I’m taking a big risk by telling you to go do something else before you read my article.

In fact if you’re reading this now, you’re probably one of the very few who made it back from that incredibly distracting activity I had you do. Thank you. You are exactly the person I want to be reading this. The others can go on their merry way. They are not the ones who need to hear this.

I had you do that search because the Internet is full of people telling you to test things on your website such as color, button size, layouts, forms, etc. I wanted you to get an idea for what’s out there.

Now, I want you to understand why almost everyone writing those articles is wrong

… or at the very least, missing the point.

Please don’t view this as me putting down the people who wrote those articles. I know a few of them personally, and I highly respect the work they are doing. This is not about whether their work is good or bad.

I’ve personally written many articles exactly like the ones they’re writing. In fact, they have one up on me because at least their articles are ranking in Google for popular search terms.

The reason they are missing the point is that most of those articles are focused on the elements of a page rather than the serving of a customer.

I get why they do it.

Webpages are far easier to understand than people. Webpages are a collection of 0s and 1s. People are a collection of who knows what.

And most of you, readers, are looking for webpage fixes — not a deeper, fuller way to serve your customer.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with you, but it’s just that we naturally focus on our own self-interest. It isn’t wrong in itself.

What is wrong is the methods we use to achieve our own goals. I don’t mean morally wrong. I mean practically wrong.


Our objective should always be: Make as much money possible.

MECLABS Institute has found after more than 15 years of research that the best method for achieving this objective is to spend as much money possible on serving your customer.

Until we can view every A/B test we run as an opportunity to better serve our customers, we will just be running (ultimately) ineffective tests on page elements.

It doesn’t really matter in the long run which color, layout or page element is going to perform well.

The Internet is constantly changing. Design trends are always going to influence how we look at webpages and their elements. What matters for marketers in the long run is how well we understand and, consequently, how well we can serve our customers.

Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS, calls this understanding of our customers “customer wisdom.

This is also why he often says, “The goal of a test is not to get a lift, but rather to get a learning.”

However, it’s one thing to hear this, another to really understand what it means.

It really means we want to conduct research, not run a test.

We want to learn a tangible lesson about our customer so that we can apply it to other areas of our marketing and achieve a maximum return on the amount of time and energy we spend on testing.

Let me show you what I mean with a real-world example. Here’s what happens when you just run an A/B test that is focused on a page element. Let’s take color for instance.

You have two treatments. The only thing changed is the background color. 


You also have a result. In this case, the result was a 19.5% increase in clickthrough at a 92% level of confidence. But here’s where things get tricky.

Read more…

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