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Thursday, Jul. 26, 2007 at 11:27 am

Conversion Testing: The Red Button Fallacy

By Robert Gorell
July 26th, 2007

Marketing Sherpa (subscription required) just published a report, showing yet again that one size does not fit all when it comes to optimizing shopping carts.

Not much marketing data exists regarding color choices on Web sites. This is one reason why so many marketers go with trendy colors or gut feelings.

One office supply retailer wanted real answers, so they tested five specific color and button size design elements. The results didn’t go as expected [...]

In terms of the Buy Now button appearing after one click on the individual product pages, they tested:
o Light blue – the existing color
o Dark blue – because it fit with DYMO’s color palate in mock layouts
o Red – because it stood out as a call-to-action element

“Red was the most contrasting color we could imagine working on the page, while really jumping out at the same time,” Klazema says. “At this point in the sale process, we weren’t really worried about the cultural connotations in terms of red symbolizing ‘STOP.’ ”

In some cases, the testing system simply declared winners and didn’t compute percentages when one outperformed another by such large margins:
- For the *select quantity* page, green soundly defeated the existing light-blue color.
- The existing light-blue version of the shopping-cart button on the cross-sell page easily outperformed red and green.

Amazingly, a larger ‘Add to Cart’ button lifted conversions 44.11% over the existing one. Of course, the design team scrambled to make the permanent switch. On the cross-sell page test, the words ‘Proceed to Cart’ beat ‘Add to Cart’ by 21.8% — and, therefore, replaced it across the site.

“It was interesting to see some colors having a positive effect at certain stages and a negative effect in other places,” Klazema says. “Green works for one shopping cart button, but not as well for the same function at different point. People are in different states of mind when they go the checkout process. Rather than apply a consistent look and feel across all buttons on the site, our key learning is that we have to continue testing in order to make sure we don’t make false assumptions.

Back in February we wrote about how large red buttons were all the rage, despite some pretty shaky evidence to support it (do yourself a favor and read the comments ;) ). Of course, knowing what to test is everything. Color is just one element, and it would stink to live in a world where everyone’s cart looked the same as a byproduct of tired “best practices” mentality. Still, I wonder, is this enough to quiet the red button boosters?

Now that red buttons are no longer the new black, maybe one day we’ll even live in a world where “users” aren’t constantly asked to “submit“.

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Comments (16)

  1. [...] 2. Conversion testing: The red button fallacy http://www.grokdotcom.com/2007/07/26/conversion-testing-the-red-button-fallacy/ [...]

  2. Eric,

    Yup, exactly like that.

    One size does not fit all is the point. In the case of that particular red button, the idea is to slow the eye to the Google Website Optimizer logo next to it. You may also notice that our “click to subscribe” call to action is blue.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with red; we’re just saying it’s not the optimal color for conversion in all — or even most — situations. There are no strict rules other than:

    “Testing, testing, 1-2-3…”

    < taps mic >

    ;)

  3. Robert,

    There was no shaky evidence here. These test were MVT and color was one of a number of elements that were tested. Confidence levels were always over 90%. One test matrix from the Sherpa case study in question is on our blog along with some more details. http://www.ottodigital.com/feature/otto_digital_prints_success_fo.php

    Where I have an issue is that in this post and the one you reference from Feb. you state that button color is not a highly signifacant variable. I strongly disagree.

    I’ve done as many button multivariate tests as anyone and by an overwhelming margin color usually is the largest factor of influence for whatever performance metric we are optimizing for. And while red does not always win, more times than not it does.

    So it’s not me that is a red button booster. The people have spoken.

    Cheers,

    Jonathan

  4. Jonathan,

    I never said, or even suggested, that color isn’t significant. It’s often VERY significant. But it’s contextual.

    Why would a multivariate test that was done on a single website make a compelling case for any would-be “best practices”? The color red isn’t the problem; it’s the notion that one way is best for everybody.

    In the example you just showed, red is by far the most prominent color, and it’s set within a color scheme that’s already blue. The red stands out here, especially when you consider the use of white space and the other blue. AND red seems to have only been tested against dark blue and light blue.

    Did you try a light green? Maybe a light green with a slight gradient, or something to make it look more tactile? I’d be curious to see if that boosts conversion.

    Future Now has been testing calls to action on myriad sites for nearly a decade and we’ve rarely found it to convert better. With some sites — and at certain points of the buying process — it does, but that doesn’t change the broader point.

    Thanks again for writing in about this! (By the way, if you’d like to show us some tests of, say, red buttons working well on landing pages, I encourage you to enter SEOmoz’s Landing Page competition. You can win $1,000 and a guest-list four the Call to Action seminar.)

  5. Robert,

    If you read the Sherpa article and our blog you will see that the entire case study is about challenging best practices. There is no best practice as these tests showed since blue beat red on another page!

    btw, I believe it was Jeff that stated color is not significant on your post from Feb.

    Thanks for blogging about a great topic!

    Cheers,

    Jonathan

  6. The one previous comment about the testing being done on one site really resonated. Better test design would demand that sites numbering in the dozens at a minimum, maybe sorted by product type, would be a minimum requirement for valid conclusions.

  7. [...] But maybe the white button doesn’t stand out enough? We’ll throw in a sweet jelly bean red button, because some swear that red “stands out more.” Check out a couple lively discussions from people who have actually tested this at Grokdotcom here and here. [...]

  8. [...] But maybe the white button doesn’t stand out enough? We’ll throw in a sweet jelly bean red button, because some swear that red “stands out more.” Check out a couple lively discussions from people who have actually tested this at Grokdotcom here and here. [...]

  9. [...] But maybe the white button doesn’t stand out enough? We’ll throw in a sweet jelly bean red button, because some swear that red “stands out more.” Check out a couple lively discussions from people who have actually tested this at Grokdotcom here and here. [...]

  10. The money market can also be free. ,

  11. [...] But maybe the white button doesn’t stand out enough? We’ll throw in a sweet jelly bean red button, because some swear that red “stands out more.” Check out a couple lively discussions from people who have actually tested this at Grokdotcom here and here. [...]

  12. [...] bronnen zie onder andere: Getelastic (107 winkelwagenknoppen), Grokdotcom, Wikipedia, Virtualhosting [...]

  13. The one previous comment about the testing being done on one site really resonated. Better test design would demand that sites numbering in the dozens at a minimum, maybe sorted by product type, would be a minimum requirement for valid conclusions.

  14. [...] An online retailer lifted conversions 44.11% by using a larger “Add to Cart” button. (Source) [...]

  15. [...] An online retailer lifted conversions 44.11% by using a larger “Add to Cart” button. (Source) [...]

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