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Yet Another Advantage of an Optimization Culture

Posted By Brendan Regan On December 4, 2008 @ 6:36 am In B2C,Checkout Process,Improving Conversion,Optimization Tactics,Web Design,Website Optimization,e-commerce | 6 Comments

Amazon's Buy Page [1]

We at FutureNow are big proponents of setting up a business culture of testing, optimization, and continuous improvement.  There are lots of advantages like improved conversion rates, bigger bottom lines, surviving tough economic times, getting past draining internal debates, and so much more.

Another advantage that we haven’t talked about as much is that an optimization culture can get you past the dangers of “best practices.” Many of our clients have implemented the “best practices” of other sites (or even other industries) and then wonder why they aren’t seeing big gains.  The main reason is that they’ve merely copied other sites’ ideas, and not tested to validate that those practices will work for their own unique site and business model.

I saw an interesting deviation from an industry “best practice” the other day, and whether it’s true or not, I imagine that testing allowed the site designers to go their own way instead of following the herd.

See the screenshot from Amazon.com’s “submit order” page.  Take a look at how they’ve handled the common issue of getting the purchaser to agree to terms and conditions before purchasing.  Many sites and site designers struggle with their Legal departments on how to secure agreement to terms while not reducing the quality of user experience (and conversion rate).

If you’ve read Always Be Testing [2], you’ve seen how we reference Amazon.com’s many evolutions of their site designs over time which come out of a very disciplined testing and optimization culture.

The common “best practice” in this scenario is to either:
a) have a checkbox near the call to action button that says something like “You must check the box to agree to terms before you submit your order.”
b) have copy near the call to action button that says something like  “By clicking the button below, you agree to our terms and conditions.”
In either case, the common design pattern is to hyperlink to the terms and conditions (near the call to action) so concerned visitors can read them in full.

Now note the subtle deviation from “best practice” on Amazon.com’s current page:

  • They have no checkbox.  One less click between the visitor and Getting the Cash.
  • They have the standard legal language at the top of the page in a much less prominent position.  It’s outside of the ‘box’ that contains the order information.
  • The hyperlinks to the terms that the visitor is accepting are in the footer of the page; nowhere near the call to action.  You’d really have to be looking for them to find them.

So how did Amazon.com get the gumption to leave “best practice” design in the dust?  Again, I can’t be sure of this, but we wager that testing results and analytics data played a major part in the design.  I highly doubt that their Legal experts are playing fast and loose with legal and financial risk!

So there you have one of the less-thought-about benefits of a testing and optimization culture.  Only through testing can you gather the data you need to safely and comfortably make the decisions that work for your business, not your industry.  Best practices are pretty dangerous when you haven’t tested to validate and re-validate them.

As we’ve said many times, don’t copy Amazon.com’s design just because they’re an industry leader.  Do your own testing to gather insight, then make the design decisions that work for you.  And in the spirit of shameless plugs, we’re here to help [3] if you need us.

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URL to article: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/12/04/yet-another-advantage-of-an-optimization-culture/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2008/12/04/yet-another-advantage-of-an-optimization-culture/place-your-order_12276438780151/

[2] Always Be Testing: http://www.amazon.com/Always-Be-Testing-Complete-Optimizer/dp/0470290633

[3] we’re here to help: http://futurenowinc.com/marketing_consulting_services.htm

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