Multivariate testingWe’ve written quite some posts on Conversion Rate Optimization and A/B testing on in the last few years. However, we’ve never really touched the subject of multivariate testing. In this post I’ll explain what multivariate testing is, its pros and cons and when you should (and should not) be using it.

What is multivariate testing?

Explaining what multivariate testing is, seems quite easy. In fact, when you look up multivariate testing on Wikipedia, it says the following:

“In internet marketing, multivariate testing is a process by which more than one component of a website may be tested in a live environment. It can be thought of in simple terms as numerous A/B tests performed on one page at the same time.”

However, I find this to be oversimplifying things a bit. With A/B tests you’re testing different versions of a complete page. This is not what you do with a multivariate test (MVT). With an MVT you’re testing elements within a page.

So lets say you have 2 versions of a headline, 2 versions of an image and 2 versions of a block of text. With a multivariate test you will test every possible combination against the others to figure out which combination yields the best conversion rate. And this is where things get tricky, because in the setup I mentioned above, there are already 8 combinations (2 x 2 x 2 = 8):

  1. Headline A + Image A + Textblock A
  2. Headline A + Image A + Textblock B
  3. Headline A + Image B + Textblock A
  4. Headline A + Image B + Textblock B
  5. Headline B + Image A + Textblock A
  6. Headline B + Image A + Textblock B
  7. Headline B + Image B + Textblock A
  8. Headline B + Image B + Textblock B


The first advantage of multivariate testing is that you can see the effect small changes on your site have. Of course, small changes can also be tested with an A/B test, but that’s suboptimal as you can only test one small change at a time. Generally, A/B tests are used for the big changes and multivariate testing is used for optimizing smaller elements.

Also, by using a multivariate setup, you’re actually able to not only test the effect of changing one element, but you’re also able to test the combined effect (interaction effect) of several elements. Will changing an element still have the same effect if you change another element on that same page? These are questions you wouldn’t be able to answer with an A/B test, but you can answer them with multivariate tests. With multivariate tests you can pretty accurately see what the effect of each element is in which setup or situation.


The biggest drawback of multivariate testing is that you need an even bigger amount of traffic and especially conversions than you do for an A/B test. I always say you should have at least 100 conversions on each variation. So if your multivariate test has 3 different versions of 3 different elements, you’ll need at least 2700 conversions (3 x 3 x 3 = 27 combinations with each at least 100 conversions).

And that’s a lot for most websites, especially if we’re talking sales on a specific product. For most websites this also means that the page needs to have quite some traffic on it, since most conversion rates aren’t that high.

Lastly, the multivariate test setup looks at a lot more variables than an A/B test and also looks at how these variables interact. This means there’s a lot bigger chance that mistakes or errors can occur in the reporting. So you should check your multivariate test results even more than your A/B test results.

When to use multivariate testing

As I’ve already mentioned above, multivariate tests are used to test smaller elements on a page. You’re testing small variations of the same element, instead of overhauling the complete page as you would in an A/B test. So first and foremost, multivariate testing isn’t supposed to be used as a starting point.

Obviously, before starting to test at all, there are a few things you have to do. First of all, you should check whether there’s even enough traffic and conversions on the page you want to run a multivariate test on. Since an MVT setup increases your amount of variations really quickly, it’s important that you have an abundance of traffic and conversions. You usually already know whether your traffic and conversion rate are up to par, because you’ve already A/B tested the page in question.

What’s next?

The next step is to find out what kind of changes you think are needed for that page. To do this you first need to be clear on what the goal of the page is. What do you want people to do on your page? Write down what you think could be the cause of visitors not completing this goal. You can find this out by being critical yourself, doing user testing (or even just a survey) and looking at your analytics.

Now you know what your page’s goal is and what could be causing a lower conversion rate on this goal. The next step is that you need to find out what you could possibly change to make more people fulfill that goal. You have to think of different versions of the factors that could be hurting your conversion rate.

When your traffic and amount of conversions are acceptable, you’ve found your page’s goal and causes for it being suboptimally completed, you should formulate hypotheses. Write down what you’ll be changing, what effect you expect this to have and maybe even why. For instance:

  • If we shorten the checkout form, more people will complete their purchase.

To my mind, hypotheses are even more important for multivariate testing, because it is so easy to just add a few more variations. Formulating hypotheses will prevent you from randomly adding new variations. Make sure you have a hypothesis for every single variation you’re creating.

Multivariate or A/B?

If you find your hypotheses are about changes that drastically change the page’s layout or look, then you’re better off choosing for an A/B test. As said, A/B tests give you the possibility to find out whether one (version of a) page performs better than the other.

If however, you find that your hypotheses are about small changes (f.i. text on your call-to-actions) then multivariate testing could be a good choice. But you have to be sure your page meets the criteria for multivariate testing that I mentioned above.

What do you think?

Multivariate testing isn’t as easy as it might seem. It’s something you should only get into if you know what you’re doing. So I’m wondering: have you ever tried multivariate testing? And did you follow my steps? Or do you have other steps you think should be followed? Let me know in the comments!

This post first appeared as Multivariate testing: what it is and when to use it on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Interpreting your A/B test resultsWe’ve written a few posts on how to set up your A/B tests. However, the setup of your A/B tests is only the first step, obviously. Once you’ve set up a test and you’re getting some results, what should you do then?

In this post I’ll be explaining how you can interpret your A/B test results and what you should look out for.

Test duration

Before you can actually start interpreting your A/B test results, you need to be sure that your test has been running for at least 7 days. This means that you’ll have corrected for the fact that some days get you more traffic, sales or anything else than others.

There are some guides out there telling you to run until your test is at least 95% significant. Marieke has explained to great detail why this is oftentimes not a smart thing to do. Please be aware that this is not a hard requirement to our minds.

Interpreting your results

Sometimes it can be hard to actually know what’s going on when looking at the results of your A/B test. So let me walk you through what I always look at in the results:

Interpreting your A/B test results - graph

We’re using Convert for our A/B tests, and when a test is done, it will us a chart that looks something like this one. There’s a lot going on here, which can be quite daunting. First of all, it shows quite clearly that Variation 1 is the winner. However, I’m always very careful when it comes to this. Let me show you why:

Interpreting your A/B test results - chart

This chart shows you that there’s a pretty big jump in the conversion rate, the improvement is 150% and a nice confidence level. However, it also shows us that all this has been calculated over just 18 conversions. Over 10,000 visits, and just 18 conversions. I prefer to have at least 100 conversions on each variation, so this is pretty slim. Now we know that while this result is pretty awesome, we have to be careful in using this data to support any future action.

So, what’s next?

The next thing I’ll check is the graph:

Interpreting your A/B test results - graph 2

I always take a look at the trend of the test. This graph shows the conversion rate of the original version, the variation, the total visitors and the average conversion rate. The original version (blue line in this case) and the variation (purple line) should not be too close during the duration of the test. If there’s just a spike at the end that made the test variation the winner, you know the results aren’t trustworthy. In this case, it looks pretty good, as the variation outperformed the original pretty soon. But don’t get too ecstatic and stay aware of the low number of actual conversions, in this case.

Be sure you also look at the Y-axis (the vertical one) to make sure the differences aren’t really small. The Y-axis tends to change with results, so small differences can look like big ones.

Other statistics

Convert will give you quite some other statistics that could be interesting and important to look at:


The conversion rate and amount of conversions are obvious ones, but I’m mostly interested in the revenue stats. Which version got you the most total revenue and revenue per visitor? But maybe you’re looking for a higher adoption rate of your product (more people using your product) instead of more revenue. In this case you should look at the bottom one: average products sold per visitor.

These statistics will be available per variation and will give you some detailed information on what the difference between the variations actually was. So be sure to look at these and use them for your interpretation!

Implementing the winning variation

In this case, we have chosen to implement the test variation, but we’ve also kept a close eye on the amount of sales and the revenue. We have checked the amount of sales and revenue against the weeks before, to be sure it wasn’t a fluke during the tests. And I implore you to do the same. It will probably not go wrong a lot, but when it does, you’ll be sorry for it. So stay aware of the fact that these tests are not perfect.

Over to you

Have you ever run a test without knowing what to do with the results? Did you ever make the wrong choice? Or you simply have something to mention about this post? Let me know in the comments!

This post first appeared as Interpreting your A/B test results on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Your website needs better formsOne of the things we notice are hardly ever optimized on most websites are forms. Forms are an integral part of just about every website. However, for some reason, people don’t (want to) spend much time thinking about these.

There’s a lot of different forms your website can have. However, I think most of them boil down to this: a contact form, a ‘request a quote’ form or a checkout form. These three all have different ways of how to optimize them, as the goal for them is different.

In this post I’ll share my views on how you should optimize each variety and how to optimize forms in general.

You need to have a form

This might sound silly, but the amount of websites we encounter during our Website Reviews that don’t have a contact form or any other kind of form where they should definitely have one, is worrisome. Some websites don’t even have a contact page.

Oh and just so we understand each other; a mailto link on a page is not the same as a contact form.

Focus your form

Just as with everything else on your website, you need to focus your forms. No matter what kind of form it is, make sure you break it down to the bare necessities. If you don’t need personal information, don’t ask for it. The fewer the fields, the shorter the form and the higher the response rate on that form.

These fields do need to be clearly visible. Don’t be tempted to use ‘slick’ form design that will basically make the fields transparent. It must be clear where people should enter the details.

And, of course, make sure your call-to-action (the send button, in this case) is visible and clear. We can’t stress this enough. If people can’t find that button, then all the form optimization in the world won’t help you.

Decent erroring and validation

One of the other things that can be implemented for any kind of form are inline erroring and validation. People don’t want to be told they’ve made a mistake filling out your form after they already hit the send button. Make sure these errors and validations appear right when the user is done filling out the field.

Not only can you be too late with your messages, you can also be too vague, or just completely wrong. For instance: don’t tell people a certain field is not filled out correctly, but rather tell them what’s wrong with how they filled it out, so they don’t unwittingly repeat the mistake (multiple times in a row…). Or, another great one: do not tell people their password for a login is wrong, when in fact they’re entering the wrong email address. I can go all day with this; my annoyances are many.

It’s so simple: make sure people understand how to fill out your form and, in the rare event of a mistake, make the errors so ridiculously clear, they won’t ever be able to reproduce it.

Contact forms

Contact forms are probably the most common kinds of forms you’ll find on the web. However, we see a lot of contact forms that look like no one ever thought about them.


I always look at the contact form as the equivalent of someone coming up to a salesperson in a physical shop. In an actual store, you’d expect the salesperson to be open, friendly and helpful. Now consider what you’d think about that salesperson if he/she was telling you “Tell me your name, date of birth and occupation before you ask me any questions!”. That would probably result in you walking out the door, right? So why should your website be any different?

Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit (although I have seen contact forms asking this and more), but the point remains clear. When it’s possible to walk up to someone and ask a question right off the bat in a physical store, this should be possible on websites as well.

Tone of voice

The tone of voice is very important for people to feel safe enough to ask a question. And tone of voice is just as much determined by what’s said as by what’s not said. So not having any text near your contact form will not absolve you from needing a decent tone of voice. You need to invite visitors to ask you a question and explain the process of how you’ll handle their question. The last thing you want to do is confuse or piss off a customer right before they wanted to ask you a question. They’ll either leave your site or they’ll be angry while contacting you.

‘Request a quote’ form

I wanted to make a separate section of this kind of form, because it can definitely be helpful to ask for more information in a ‘request a quote’ form. It all depends on the setup of your business, your website and your form. The same premise still holds though: if you don’t really need certain information, don’t ask for it.

Pricing information

Half the time I see a ‘request a quote’ button or form, I feel kind of cheated. These kinds of forms really make me feel the website owner just doesn’t want to share their usual pricing, because they can see if they can make more money off of you. So you should be clear about the reason you’re not communicating your prices. Preferably even show people a price range they can expect. This will not only filter out people that aren’t interested in that price range, but it’ll also give people like me a better idea of what they can expect. And that alone can help increase your response rate and conversion rate.

Checkout form

I’ve done a post on how we optimized our checkout page in November 2013, and most of that design still holds. There are some things you should definitely implement though:

Progress bar

This actually goes for every form you have on your website. You should implement a progress bar that shows people how far along in your form they are. This gives them a lot of insight in the whole process and will most likely increase your form’s completion rate.


Try to make it as clear as possible what all the options and details of the transaction are. What is the price, the product they’re buying, the payment options, etc. All of this should be very clear and quickly visible. The use of logos, product images, etc. can really help in this process.

How are you doing?

Are your website’s forms up to par? Or do they need some more optimization? If you’re not sure or want to have us take a look at them (and the rest of your site), take a look at our Website Reviews!

This post first appeared as Your website needs (better) forms on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

the perfect progress barWe’ve done quite some posts on conversion rate optimization and nearly always named progress bars in them. People value progress bars, and if they don’t function according to what they’re used to, they’ll get worried. That makes you wonder, right? Apparently progress bars work, but what makes them work?

In this post I’ll be diving in deep into what seems to be quite a small subject. I’ll explain how you can make the perfect progress bar. Of course, perfection is arguable and what works on your site might not work on another, so let me start by saying that I’m talking about a general perfection. These are things that, in general, work best.

What’s a progress bar?

For those of you left completely in the dark as to what a progress bar actually is, let me explain. A progress bar is a bar that, surprisingly, shows your progress of a certain task. This can be, for instance, the completing of a survey or completing a purchase. I’ll mainly be focusing on the latter; completing purchases.

Let me show you what a progress bar can look like. Here’s ours, which you’ll find in our checkout:

Progress bar YoastSo as you can see, this progress bar just shows you where you are in the entire purchase process and what steps you’ve already completed.

What makes a perfect progress bar?

There are a few things that make a progress bar “perfect”. Obviously, this is a perfection and you should always test whether this setup is actually the best way to go for your site. I’ve constituted two things that make a progress bar perfect. These things are Usability and Psychological Triggers.


No breadcrumb
This might seem silly, but I’ve actually come across quite some websites that make their progress bars look like a breadcrumb. If the placing and look of your progress bar looks like a breadcrumb, it simply won’t work. Even worse is actually using your breadcrumbs to simultaneously be your progress bar:

Progress bar 1800PetMedsThis is totally unclear, and will not give you any benefit at all. This does not work.

Highlight the current step
A big part of the idea of the progress bar is that it’s visible for people where they are. Highlighting the step where your visitors currently are is very important. This is something the progress bar above doesn’t do very well, if at all.

Explain the steps
This is usually done right, but it’s still important enough to mention. You have to explain the steps in the progress bar, just as we’ve done. “Select payment method” is pretty clear as to what that step’s for. Next to this explanation it’s also smart to show the number of the steps, because that makes it that much more visible to the visitors how much more they have to go.

Here’s a screenshot of the progress bar on Zalando:

Progress bar ZalandoWhile these explain the steps pretty nicely, it begins and highlights a step that’s nothing to do with your progress. I’d always encourage you to show your visitors the connection on your website is secure, but this is simply not the place.

It looks like the first step, but it isn’t, as the next arrow starts with 1. So why is it in the same bar? On the current page they’re actually asking me to login, which to the most users doesn’t have anything to do with a “secure connection”. So this really isn’t explanatory at all.

The location of the progress bar is obviously really important. If people can’t see it, the value of having one is naught. People will have to be able to continually view it, to also be able to continually view their progress.

Psychological triggers

Sense of movement
I’ve actually written a complete post about visual direction and attention. This will work just as well with your progress bars. The sense of movement is, among other things, triggered by arrow shaped forms. This will give the visitor the feeling they’re actually moving along.

Point of entry
At our own progress bar, people get in at the second step when they’ve added a product to their cart. And with good cause, as they’ve already taken the biggest step: deciding to buy something! However, this does give the users a boost as they’re already a quarter of the way there!

Validating completed steps
If people have completed a step, don’t just move them on to the next step. Use your progress bar to show them they’ve successfully completed the previous step(s). We do that by showing the green check mark after every step. This increases a person’s self-efficacy, which basically increases our motivation to complete a task.

Size of steps
This is a small thing which we’re not actually doing ourselves, but still one I wanted to mention. The steps of the progress bar could actually indicate the time it would usually take to complete a step. This can be done by making the more time consuming steps a bigger portion of the progress bar than the less time consuming steps. In fact, studies show that a slow start with a quick finish is highly preferred by people. So the longer parts of the progress bar can be placed at the start, and the shorter ones at the end.

However, this is the complete opposite of what Villar, Callegaro & Yang have found in their study. This shows that you’ll need to find out what works best for your site, if there’s any difference to be found. But it does keep you thinking, which is never a bad thing, when optimizing your website.


So there are eight things that you should or should not do to make your progress bar perfect:

  1. Do not make it look like a breadcrumb;
  2. Highlight the current step;
  3. Explain every step;
  4. Place it within view;
  5. Add visual triggers that imply movement;
  6. Skip the first step;
  7. Validate completed steps;
  8. Think about the time spent on each step.

I feel these are the things that every progress bar should have, as they’ll make the whole process the most clear. It simply makes it easier and more transparent for your users. And that’s exactly what you want. And this is just one little part of all the things we’ll point out during a Diamond Review, so do check those out as well!

I’m curious to hear whether you think I’m right, or completely wrong. Let me know in the comments!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Online ShoppingLast week, we had an email from somebody who was pretty desperate. He had set up an online shop, filled it with thousands and thousands of products and in the three or four months after release, still nobody had found his shop or ordered his products. The online shop at hand sells women’s cloths.

This guy isn’t the only one with that mindset. Unfortunately, a lot of people still think the internet will magically bring them a fortune without any more promotional work to be done. “If you build it, they will come”. If only.

Now we could easily sell people like this a review, and then have them rebuild their shop. But it only seems fair to guide the ignorant a bit, right? Here are some things to consider when setting up a webshop.

What’s the Unique Selling Point (USP) of your online shop?

A Unique Selling Point (or Proposition) is the main reason for a customer to switch products or shops. It’s the thing that makes your online shop better than the all the other out there. The concept was “first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s” (from Wikipedia). I’ve also heard people saying the USP is dead and replaced by UBR, the Unique Buying Reason. Whatever you call it, your webshop needs it to stand out from the crowd.

Have you thought about this? Why is your collection of shoes better than the next? Perhaps you kept the environment in mind, like a lot of others? It’s tough to find that one reason why you’re better than the competition.

With your USP in mind, you can start building your online shop. In our reviews, we’ve found more than once that an online shop is just a collection of products and the human factor is entirely left out. That doesn’t mean you should add a live chat or whatever, but you should focus on a great About Us page. And for instance loads of positive testimonials and reviews for both your products and your shop as a whole. Something that’s left out even more is a blog. If you have a unique product or service, you must have something to say about it.

What’s the main eye catcher on the homepage?

Why would anyone list all their available products on their homepage? One of my favorite words is ‘clutter’. I just really dislike an online shop that shows a million different options for me to click on. I either already know exactly what I want to purchase and use Google to find it, or I visit your shop to see what you have that will make my life a bit easier. That’s a bit black and white, but it does emphasize the need for a great call-to-action on the homepage of your online shop.

A lot of online shops use sliders as their call-to-action. You already know our take on sliders, but unfortunately a lot of shops do use them. Especially when cloths are involved, an online shop comes up with great images in a slider. Apart from the discussion if static images or copy would convert better, you should at least create an obvious link or button on that slider. If possible, keep the same look for that link or button for every slide. And keep it in the same place.

Unlike thinking of a decent USP, it really isn’t hard to set up a decent call-to-action. Think along the lines of featured products or links to your sale or outlet page. Perhaps even a special page you’ve created for your summer collection.

Did you write great content for your product pages?

This will take some effort. Most online shops we’ve reviewed in the past year used manufacturer descriptions for their product pages. Just import that database or XML file and you’ll have a content filled webshop and Google will start showing your product pages in their search result pages. Think again.

This is probably the most common reason for cross-domain duplicate content for online shops. Most of your competitors will use that exact same description. So you can either:

  1. Forget about ranking with your product pages (which can be a valid decision sometimes), or
  2. Write unique product descriptions (or have someone write them for you).

Option one is only valid when you have common products that are offered all over the internet. You should at least use Product schemas and allow for customer reviews (unique content!), so you can focus on other content to make your site rank. Choose your categories with care and set up killer category pages. Maintain or set up that blog on your website. In short: focus on your Unique Selling Point.

The second option is much, much harder. Not if your webshop only has ten products of course, but with thousands of products it’s a whole different ball game. Hiring a copywriter might not be a bad idea in this case. It’s amazing in how many ways a good copywriter can tell the same story over and over again for similar products of the same brand. And prevent that duplicate content by doing so.

Do you create a safe environment for your customer-to-be?

Make sure a visitor feels safe enough to submit personal stuff like credit card details on your website. That doesn’t mean your online shop should just contain a lot of security signs. Yes, these should be added, but a secure feeling is also enhanced by other things, such as testimonials. And how about inline validation? Feeling secure is also about doing things right yourself.

An obvious one that is unfortunately forgotten by a lot of online shops: contact details. That large telephone number in your header makes sure I know I can contact someone if things go wrong. That address in the footer tells me you have an actual location I can go to with my complaint or damaged goods. It seems like some online shop owners just want to sell and prefer not to be contacted afterwards at all.

One more thing: Refund policies and Money Back Guarantees. Most of the times these are defined by law, so why not display these clearly on your website? A lot of your customers don’t realize they are protected anyway and don’t have a lot to worry about when purchasing anything from your shop. Listing these near checkout buttons is a great way to take away that last doubt.

Does your internal search work like it should?

Another pet peeve of mine. When you do a search in a webshop for “iPhone cable” and the results give back Galaxy covers. This might be personal, but when I do a search in a shop, I would like to:

  • See an image of the product,
  • view the product price so I can already compare products in the search results,
  • add cheaper items to my cart directly from these search results,
  • have a clear ‘click here for more details’ link,
  • be able to list all items instead of having to click to the next page (I can scroll really fast, you know),
  • have these results ordered by relevance.

If you do this right, I’d be in and out your online shop in no time and you can send over all these great products you offer.

Gives you something to think about, right?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In our reviews we cover this, and a lot more, so if you’re willing to spend money on getting our opinion, get one of our website reviews.

Also, if you run a website or build websites: you must have customer stories about this, or additional considerations. Perhaps you were that ignorant online shop owner in a past life? I’m looking forward to your additions in the comments.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

In the last month I’ve been speaking at a few conferences with a talk I’ve dubbed “The Psychology behind Conversion”. In this talk I’m trying to explain why everyone who maintains a website should be interested in psychology and how it can help them.

Being interested in psychology, especially when applied to the web, is more than just reading Cialdini’s Influence. Don’t get me wrong by the way, that book is awesome. But there are just so much more psychological processes at work than people are probably aware of. One of the most important ones, to my mind, is visual attention. People undoubtedly understand that attention is of importance when it comes to doing, well, anything really. So the same goes for visiting websites. But in my opinion it is not just attention, but visual attention that’s most important for visiting websites.

Visual attention

There are a lot of processes playing their part in this. We are very visual beings, and not being able to see, especially when you’re used to seeing, impairs us more than anything. It literally helps us understand our world. Our sight can even influence our other senses, such as taste.

So it’s of great importance to direct your visitor’s visual attention to those parts of your website you want them to see. To make sure you’re keeping their visual attention. In this post, I will discuss three aspects of visual attention: visual cueing, facial distraction and perceptual incongruence.

Visual cueing

Visual cueing basically means directing your visitors’ gazes. You can do this with colors or textual directions, but the most effective way is shapes. And there’s one shape that’s unparalleled when it comes to visual cueing: the arrow. Now, I use the term ‘arrow’ in a broad term, as it can be an actual arrow, or more of a triangle shape.

On you can find a great explanation on this. Especially this picture makes it very clear:

Van der Valk visual cueing

So adding those simple triangles in the images resulted in a huge increase in people scrolling down to the bottom of the page. But even more amazing: they had a 57% increase in conversion. So this already shows that keeping and directing your visitor’s visual attention pays off. Obviously, this is a process that every parallax website should be taking advantage of!

Facial distraction

The second aspect of visual attention I would like to discuss is facial distraction. If you’re interested in usability, eyetracking, conversion, or just read too many blogs, you’ve probably seen this image:

baby front

Visual heatmap from Usable World

What you see on this visual heatmap is a classic example of facial distraction. People will look back at the baby’s face a lot more than they’ll actually read the text. This works for any kind of picture of a person. It doesn’t have to be a baby. It doesn’t even have to be a real person; avatars such as the ones we use will render the same effect!

So I shouldn’t use pictures of people?

Of course you should! Adding pictures of people to your website adds credibility and a sort of personality to your site. As long as it aren’t stock photos. All I’m saying is that you should make these pictures work for you.

When babies are about 9 months old, their mothers will start pointing and looking at objects to try and direct the baby’s attention to that object. This is called joint attention. And this is exactly the process you should be using to direct your visitors’ gazes to where you want them to go. The follow picture will probably explain it much better than I can:

baby sideways

Visual heatmap from Usable World

As you can see, people will look where the baby is looking. Again, this works with just about anything that we can recognize as a (depiction of a) human face. You might’ve noticed our WordPress plugins page has avatars that are all looking toward the text. This is no coincidence ;)


So definitely show pictures of people on your website, but also make sure they’re not distracting your visitors. Have these pictures help you direct your visitors’ attention instead.

Perceptual incongruence

The third aspect of visual attention I want to discuss  is my personal favorite, probably because it’s a difficult word. However, the psychology behind it is pretty cool as well. Perceptual incongruence is basically a process where we automatically pay attention to things we don’t understand. Let me show you a video to try and explain it:

12 seconds into the video, you’ll notice that a glass is tilted sideways, without the liquid spilling out. This is something that our brain interprets as ‘weird’. It is not what’s supposed to happen, so we automatically and involuntarily pay attention to it. And for the ones who think this is just a fluke or a gimmick: within 5 seconds the Bacardi logo pops up.

However, you should be careful with this process. If there are a lot of distractions from this perceptual incongruence, such as other moving or bright elements on your website, its effect could be negated. The perceptual incongruence process will be negated by another process called ‘selective attention’. People should not be able to easily focus on, or be distracted by, other things. Simply because this would mean they won’t see the unexpected element which should trigger the perceptual incongruence process. This is all probably best explained by another video:

Did you notice anything strange? Most people actually don’t. And that’s because people were specifically instructed not to take notice of anything else. So the key here is to surprise your visitors in a place where there aren’t any (or a lot of) other distractions. If you surprise them there, they will pay attention. And once you’ve got their attention, be sure that you make it count! This is exactly what we tell (and teach) people in our Conversion Reviews and Diamond Reviews.

Over to you

These are just a few of the psychological and visual triggers you can use to direct your visitors’ gaze and attention. Maybe you’ve heard about a few others that you thought were awesome? Or maybe you have something to say about this post? Let me know!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Google Analytics provides us with lots of information about our visitors. However, we are in complete ignorance about the motivations of our visitors to buy our products.  Why do people shop online?  And how can we influence their motives and make them buy (more of) our products?

Thijs already gave lots of useful insights in how to optimize the conversion of your website in several of his recent posts about conversion rate optimization. Thijs and I are currently working on an extensive study about online purchasing behavior and conversion optimization. For our research we are reading a lot of scientific articles about what makes people buy products online. In this post, I’ll make an overview of some of the most valuable insights about peoples motives to purchase online. And: what you could do with these insights to increase your sales!

Utilitarian & hedonic motives


In most studies investigating the motives people have to shop online, researchers distinguish hedonic motives from utilitarian motives (e.g. To, Liao & Lin, 2007). Utilitarian motives are rational, critical and goal oriented. These people shop to find the right product for the right price.

Next to utilitarian motives, there are hedonic motives. The reason that hedonic consumers love to shop is simply because they enjoy the shopping process. They search for happiness, fantasy, sensuality or enjoyment and they find that in shopping.

While visitors with utilitarian motives should be convinced by rational arguments, the hedonic shoppers will be converted by emotions. Of course, anticipating on utilitarian or on hedonic motives will have totally different consequences for the design and the layout of your website. I will discuss both utilitarian motives (cognitions and trust) as well as hedonic motives (emotions) in more detail below.

Rational motives (utilitarian)

Utilitarian motives are rational. Utilitarian buyers shop to gather information or simply to immediately purchase a product. Utilitarian buyers have a shopping plan and know what they want. These buyers shop online because it saves them money or because they want to find the cheapest product. They also shop online because it is convenient, it saves them time or because they have more products to choose from.

As long as the benefits outgrow the costs, you can easily persuade a utilitarian buyer to buy your product. Wanting to persuade utilitarian buyers means you have to offer good products for a good price, with good information and with a good and swift service.

Some products especially appeal to an utilitarian audience. If you would try to sell WordPress-plugins for instance, chances are big that your audience will have rational motives to buy your products. Few of our clients will be in search of fantasy or sensuality when they consider buying one of our products.

Trust (utilitarian)

Important for the utilitarian buyer is trust. Is this webshop genuine? Will I get my purchases in time? Toufaily, Souiden & Ladhari (2013) claim that online shopping is more prone to uncertainty and risks than traditional shopping. Technological advances have improved security levels, but the lack of psychical contact with both product and vendor make it hard for consumers to trust online shops. This makes the costs for an online transaction higher.

As utilitarian buyers are more convinced that the payment is secure on a website, they are more likely to buy. Thus, making sure your payment is secure will increase the likelihood people buy online. But you should also make an effort to show your visitors who you are. How can they contact you when they are not satisfied? Make sure names (and possibly pictures) of (customer service) employees appear on your website.

Emotions (Hedonic)

Hedonic motives are not rational, but emotional. In an article in Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, Lopez and Ruiz (2011) investigate (among other things) the influence of emotions on online purchasing behavior. They state that several studies have shown that positive emotions, such as enjoyment, predict whether people in fact return to your website.  Research of Bosnjak, Galesic and Tuten (2007) even shows that emotions are more important than cognitions in online shopping.

Lopez and Ruiz recommend companies dealing with hedonic products such as perfumes, jewellery or vacations to evoke emotional responses when communicating their products through the website. The reason for this, Lopez and Ruiz claim, is that “most of its consumers may not be interested in the specific composition of the fragrance or the way the jewel has been cut, but in the sensations the consumer would feel in case of purchasing.” If you try to sell luxury goods you could do your advantage with this marketing technique. The design of your website plays a big role in evoking positive emotions like fun, happiness and relaxation.

Bear in mind that hedonic shopping can influence unplanned shopping behavior. Evoking an emotion could well lead to impulsive shopping behaviour. If you want to increase your sales, you should anticipate on this by offering products in a way that people experience as enjoyable and fun.

How do I know what the motives of my visitors are?

Maybe (a part of) your audience has hedonic motives. But how do you find out? And how do you know whether your audience finds your webshop trustworthy? Google Analytics does not give you that kind of information.

For most websites, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what motives most of your visitors will have. Simply looking at your product will give you a good idea. If you are offering a luxurious item, chances are big you are dealing with a hedonic audience. But still, if you really want to anticipate on the motives of your visitors, you should measure their motives.

Measuring the motives of your audiences is hard but not at all impossible. You can use packages such as PollDaddy to make an online survey and simply ask your audience what their motives are.  Making the questionnaire is the hardest part of measuring the motives of your audience. Simply asking whether their motives are hedonic or utilitarian doesn’t cut it ;-). If you would want to measure shopping motives, I would advice you to read some studies on motives and learn from the questionnaires these studies used.


Website visitors can have different motives to visit your website. They could be rational, goal-oriented buyers with a clear plan and idea of what they want. In that case, providing quality information and offering a fair price while making the appearance of your website trustworthy would be important to increase conversion. But if you appeal to a hedonic audience, your website should evoke positive emotions in order to persuade your audience to buy your products.

You should keep the motives and the way to appeal to your audience solidly in mind while shaping and altering your website.


Bosnjak, M., Galesic, M., & Tuten, T. (2007). Personality determinants of online shopping: Explaining online purchase intentions using a hierarchical approach. Journal of Business Research.

López, I., & Ruiz, S. (2011). Explaining website effectiveness: The hedonic–utilitarian dual mediation hypothesis. Electronic Commerce Research and Applications.

To, P.-L., Liao, C., & Lin, T.-H. (2007). Shopping motivations on Internet: A study based on utilitarian and hedonic value. Technovation.

Toufaily, E., Souiden, N., & Ladhari, R. (2013). Consumer trust toward retail websites: Comparison between pure click and click-and-brick retailers. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services20(6), 538-548. Retrieved from

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Two weeks ago, we did a Facebook free giveaway for a Conversion Review. The lucky winner was the webshop Indigobox Jewels. In this post, I’ll highlight a few of the most important things we’ve come across during the review.

I’ll first go through the website as if I were a visitor who wants to buy something. After that, I’ll dive in a bit deeper by going into some interesting data from Google Analytics. You will be shown a screenshot of every step, which I will comment on with what could be improved. That way, you’ll be able to see everything I’m talking about.


If I were to come onto the website at the homepage, this would be my first view:

The design isn’t bad, but there are definitely a few things that could be improved on this homepage:

  1. The menu doesn’t look like the menu of a webshop. Sure, it has the menu-item shop. But is that what you’d expect from a webshop? No, you’d expect categories in the menu. Everything in this menu should be in a top menu or even a footer. The menu bar you’re seeing there should show categories: Rings, Watches, Earrings, etc.
  2. The slider takes up a lot of space, and doesn’t really do anything useful. There are no buttons or calls-to-action in there that could convince me to click through to that item. And even if it did: research has shown that just 1% will actually click the first slide. No one will click any other slide.
  3. There’s a HUGE free shipping call-to-action in the middle there, but I can’t click it! And even if I could click it, should this really be the focus of this homepage? No. The focus should be on getting people to click products, or going to one of the category pages.
  4. The other calls-to-action are way too boring. They’re black ‘Add to cart’ buttons, that don’t really make me want to click them at all. Testing with a different color, but especially shape and size could give some good results.
  5. Lastly, who are you? Why should I buy my products with you? Try to gain some trust from your visitors. Don’t just throw on a few products on a website and think people will start buying it. People will want to know their money is safe.

Category page

I’m not fully sold on any of the products on the homepage, so I’ll click the ‘Shop’ menu item. Here’s what I’m seeing next:

Here are the things I’d do differently on this page:

  1. This is exactly why the categories should be in the menu. If I’m not interested in necklaces, or that one bracelet I’m seeing, I need to click again, choosing one of the categories on the left.
  2. There’s way too much emphasis on the filtering option. There’s a black button there, that at the moment seems just as important as the ‘Add to cart’ buttons.
  3. I’m surprised by the fact that there’s suddenly a “sale” section! Why didn’t I get to see that on the homepage? I’m always interested in getting something cheaper! And these seem like some good discounts, so why isn’t there more emphasis on this?
  4. I’m missing a lot more filter options here, actually. Why can’t I filter on what material the products are made of, for instance?

Product page

So lets say I was interested in the top left necklace, and wanted to learn a bit more about it. I’d click the ‘View more…’ link and get to this page:

This is quite a disappointing page to me. Here’s why:

  1. I clicked the ‘View more…’ button! Why isn’t there actually more to view? I’m getting the same picture! Granted, I can now click on the image to enlarge it, but it’s still the same image. I’d love a 3D picture of the item.
  2. There’s no product description! This just makes that heading ‘Product Description’ even more painful, because it’s just the name of the item there. Try to give as much detail about the product as you can, including material used, size, weight, etc.
  3. There are no reviews. This doesn’t really spark my trust. Did no one like this product? It’s really important that you get some reviews on your products. And if you don’t have any on your products, include reviews on your webshop! Don’t just leave it empty.

It all comes down to creating an experience that comes as close to ‘the real thing’ as possible. What I mean by this is that people want to get the information they’d also get by holding the product in their hands and looking at it.

Shopping cart page

Now, if I were interested in buying, I’d click the ‘Add to cart’ button. This is the page I get to see then:

Now there are two obvious problems with this:

  1. If I just wanted the one product, why can’t I go to the cart immediately? This should at least be an option next to the ‘Add to cart’ button.
  2. The blue bar at the top there is to guide you to the cart. That’s just not enough emphasis for someone who’s just added something to the cart. This should pop out a lot more.

I’ll click on the ‘View Cart’ text link next:

There’s a lot going on here, especially for a cart:

  1. I put something of $15.95 in my cart, but now the order total shows me $22.18?Unexpected costs are the #1 reason for people to abandon their shopping cart. Sure, I could’ve guessed that I’d have to pay some shipping, because I’m not over the $25 limit, but the tax, at least, should be included.
  2. There’s absolutely no focus on this page. There’s three calls-to-action fighting for attention. The only distinction is that the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ button is slightly bigger. That’s too small a distinction. The ‘Apply Coupon’ and ‘Update Cart’ buttons should simply be text links.
  3. Why is that Calculate Shipping text link there? The shipping fee is already there, isn’t it? This makes it all confusing and very uncertain for someone who wants to purchase something. In conjunction with that note text there (“Note: Shipping and taxes are estimated (taxes estimated for the United States) and will be updated during checkout based on your billing and shipping information.”), this doesn’t really make me trust this is the end price.
  4. Why is there no message telling me “order for just $9.05 more, and get free shipping!”? The shipping is at least $4.95, so a quick little sum tells me that would actually just cost me $4.10 more. So this is definitely something any webshop owner should be pushing!
  5. Lastly: I’m missing a progress bar. Let me know how far ahead I am in the process of ordering your product. This will lead to gamification, which means more people will finish the whole process, and more quickly.

Checkout page

I don’t want to apply any coupon, update the cart or calculate any shipping, so I’ll click ‘Proceed to Checkout’:

There are a few things here that meet my eye:

  1. I just went to the checkout page, and I’m confronted with these ‘error’ type messages. These should really be a lot less intrusive, because now it looks like I’ve done something wrong.
  2. See that small text next to Shipping Address? That says ‘Ship to some other address’. This is really hard to read, so that should definitely be a lot bigger.
  3. I’m missing my order here. That’s all the way at the bottom of the page. I don’t want to fill in all my details before I can make sure the order is alright. So the details about what I ordered should actually be on top.
  4. There’s only one payment option on this page: PayPal (can’t be seen on the screenshot). If people see your website has (multiple) trustworthy credit card logos, they’ll feel safer on your website! Maybe even more important: 59% will simply abandon their transaction if the preferred payment option isn’t available.
  5. You should really use inline validation, which I’ve already written about in a previous post about our own checkout page. Giving people direct feedback will gamify the process of filling in your form fields. This will make it more likely they fill in the entire form!

Google Analytics

Of course the front end part of the purchase process is very important for conversion rate optimization, but when it comes down to it, the base of it all is data. And that’s why you need Google Analytics. However, in order to get useful data out of Google Analytics, there are a few things you need to do. Especially if you have a webshop.


The setup of the Google Analytics of Indigobox Jewels was missing goals. Goals are a very important measurement for any kind of website really. No matter what kind of website you have, there’s always something you want your visitors to do. And that’s why you set up goals, to see how many of your visitors are actually doing what you want them to.

Goals allow you to see how many people start in your so called ‘funnel’, and how many proceed to the next step in this funnel. This allows you to see the conversion rate of every step. Obviously this tells you a lot about where you have the most room for improvement, which is invaluable data in itself.

Ecommerce tracking

Ecommerce tracking is the tracking of your revenue. This is a must for anyone selling anything through their website. Unfortunately, Indigobox Jewels were missing a setup for ecommerce tracking as well.

With ecommerce tracking, not only can you keep track of what your revenue has been for any given period of time, but it also shows you which pages are worth the most. Google Analytics calculates this by measuring which pages eventually led to a sale 1 or 2 steps down the road. In knowing this, you know which pages to put more focus on, and which pages can use some improvement.

Mobile traffic

When going through the Google Analytics of Indigobox Jewels, I noticed the site had a very high percentage of mobile visitors:

And the orange piece of the pie there is the percentage of visitors on a tablet. This is nearly 60% on mobile devices! With numbers like these, you need to make sure your mobile website is up to par. And if you’re selling things on your website, your purchase process should be working flawlessly on mobile devices as well.

Indigobox Jewels had a pretty nicely responsive website, but there was room for a few improvements on their cart page:

As you can see, the menu and header take up a lot of space on a smartphone. Half of the screen is taken by it, in fact. The call-to-action to go to the checkout page was a long way down. You always have to make sure your most important call-to-action of every page is easily accessible, even on mobile devices. And apart from that, make sure everything fits and doesn’t “fall off” the page on a mobile device. Having your total not completely visible, as in the screenshot above, will definitely not help your conversion rate.

Optimizing for mobile devices

Optimizing for mobile devices can be quite bothersome. There are always hard choices to make, but some choices you can’t go without. With Indigobox Jewels this was the amount of visitors accessing their website using iDevices:

Of their mobile traffic, 52.7% came from an iPhone, and 21.2% came from an iPad. So if there’s any place to start the optimization for mobile devices, it’s with iDevices, in Indigobox Jewels’ case. Always check your statistics to make sure you’re making the right choices.

That’s it!

As said, this is only a small part of what we’re looking into during our Conversion Reviews. Do you have any questions or remarks? Let me know in the comments!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

As of January 2nd we’re offering Conversion Reviews, in which we review your website and give you a list of improvements to increase your conversion rates. We’ve come to the conclusion we needed to offer these Conversion Reviews as a result of my own activities within Yoast, as well as our experience with the Website Reviews.


We already focused on conversion when making our Website Reviews, among other things. During the hundreds of Website Reviews we’ve done so far, we noticed a lot of the websites we were reviewing could use more than just a ‘nudge in the right direction’. Because while we are helping people to get more and more traffic to their site, it’s a waste to see only a sliver of that traffic actually converting.

Apart from that, I’ve personally noticed that I’ve had more and more to say about the conversion part of the Website Reviews. Sometimes I actually had to hold back on this part, so it wouldn’t drown out the rest of the review.

So making the Conversion Review its own thing was a logical step. Business wise it’s a logical step as well: the Website Review will help you draw as much visitors to your website as possible, and the Conversion Review will help you make the most of these visitors.

Conversion Review

In short, the Conversion Review will help you optimize your conversion rates. Whether your website is aimed at sales, email subscriptions or simply page views, the Conversion Review will give you a handy list of what you should change. Basing our claims on (scientific) articles and findings from other tests and studies, we tell you what you should change, what you could test, and why.

So even if you’re no stranger to conversion rate optimization, this review will be helpful to you. It will give you a clear focus on your most important pages and where the best improvements could be made.

What others thought

In december 2013 we’ve already done some Conversion Reviews. Here’s what one of our customers had to say:

Bully Max“We would like to thank you for the review as it is proving to be indispensable for us growing the business. In fact, so far I think I look at the review at least once a day for reference. Thank you also for taking care of our Google Analytics issues. Having a backup of the data is a great thing. Your hard work with this is very appreciated. All in all, your reviews are awesome, and any serious online business would be missing out, not to take advantage of such knowledge.

Team Yoast is money well spent, bottom line!”

Matthew Kinneman, Bully Max

Order your Conversion Review here »



This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

Why testing is not always the right way to start optimizing your conversion.

Learning more and more about Conversion Optimization, it appeared to me as though testing (A/B or multivariate) is the only way to go.  Most of the sites of agencies claiming to help optimize your conversion, state that you should separately test every freaking little change you make on your page. Of course, I am exaggerating a little, but my point remains that conversion rate optimization implies a lot of testing. And that is a lot of work….

Scientific Progress

The scientist in me revolted! In science, we make progress (in an ideal world, I know… but still) to work and improve upon each other’s work. We try to make scientific progress! To do things that no man has done before! Can’t we apply that principle to the conversion-business? Does every site owner really have to invent the conversion-wheel for himself? Do we really need to test everything?

In this post I am not going to argue that conversion testing is superfluous. In some situations testing is inevitable and will lead to large improvements in your sales. But: let’s look at two situations in which testing is – at least in my opinion – not the (first) way to go!

1. Your site (of part of it) is just too crappy

In some cases the website just is not ready for any testing. We recently altered our entire checkout-page because there was just too much wrong with it. Our checkout page was crappy. There were too many thing wrong. Testing all these things separately would have taken ages. We decided to improve our checkout page on numerous aspects. Afterwards we tested whether the total package of changes resulted in a higher conversion-rate (and it did). But the initial changes were not tested separately. We did the initial changes on the base of knowledge from the scientific literature and from previous tests we ran.

Reading about conversion on the Internet will give you plenty of hints to improve your website without first testing every little detail. You should definitely read Wheel of Persuasion and also Thijs’ previous posts on Yoast.

Conversion rate optimization should start with a critical view at your own site or checkout page. Could you improve largely upon it just by looking at the common knowledge about conversion?  Then first make these large improvements. After that, you can start testing and start fine-tuning. You can alter small things and test how you can further maximize your conversion.

 2.    You have very little conversions

Testing only makes sense if you actually have conversions.  You will need a fair amount of visitors and conversions to do an A/B-test properly. On sites with small amounts of visitors, the time period of a test will be rather lengthy. Otherwise, these tests will never come to any significant results. This will have consequences for the reliability of the results of your A/B-tests. The Z-statistic used in the A/B-tests is just not that reliable used in tests with a very low conversion rate. The same goes for tests with very small amounts of data. For more detailed information about the Z-statistic you can read my previous post. I think you should at least have 30 conversions a week to do proper testing. Note: that is my opinion, not a statistical law!

When you just started your site, or your site just does not have that many visitors, testing small changes in your website design for conversion improvements just does not make a lot of sense. In that case, you should also benefit from the existing body of knowledge of all these excellent conversion rate experts.


While optimizing the conversion on your website, you can use multiple tools. Testing can definitely be a good way to go, especially while fine-tuning your conversion.  However, you could also improve your conversion rate by applying knowledge and experience of other conversion rate experts.

New: Conversion Reviews on Yoast

And we have news for you! At Yoast we are currently fine-tuning (we’re are actually beta-testing already) a new product: the Conversion Review. This review will give you practical guidance in the changes you should make to improve the conversion of your website. Furthermore, the review will give you tips to set up your own A/B-tests to fine-tune and optimize the conversion even further. These Conversion Reviews will be sold at as of January 2014.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!