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Small changes, big LIFT

Words by: & Chris Goward Last updated: August 27th, 2020 7 min. read

“Less is more.”

Did you ever wonder where that phrase came from?

Steve Jobs? Yoda?

Turns out, Robert Browning first penned those words in the 19th century, in a poem inspiring minimalist designers to push the limits of simplicity.

WiderFunnel Poster - Keep testing
Big changes or small, always keep testing.

Although we know this recommendation colloquially, it’s sometimes hard to accept it when making investments in business decisions.

It’s tempting to assume that dramatic redesigns are necessary for major impact, but with the right hypothesis, pinpointed to solve the right conversion barrier, you can see the right kind of lift even without dramatic changes.

The devil’s in the details

(Another stalwart minimalist precept).

One of testing’s many benefits is isolating sensitive areas and seeing the reactions to micro changes. While it’s tempting to brush off these isolations and small adjustments, the results they yield can sometimes outweigh major redesign tests – if the hypothesis is solid.

More times than not, it’s the simplest experiments – ones that rely on good ideas and not on UX fireworks – that produce the best results.

Alhan Keser, Optimization Strategist

In other words, even a small change can have big impact if it’s based on a great hypothesis.

Here’s what I mean:

Strengthening the ‘scent trail’

One of WiderFunnel’s clients runs a strictly Facebook ad campaign: they use information from Facebook profiles to cue a single ad, which sends visitors to a landing page funnel that is directly correlated to this ad.

The client already had the Facebook ‘Like’ button on their page, but it was given low prominence in the footer.

LIFT Model - Relevance wireframe
To add social relevance, we moved the Facebook widget from bottom to top of the page.

Taking the visitor journey into account, we wanted to test the power of social context: in one A/B test, we simply brought the Facebook button to the header of the page.

This is clearly a minor change. Some may say it’s inconsequential.

So, why did we plan such a small isolation test in this case?

In planning the test, we referred to the LIFT Model™, and identified a Relevance LIFT barrier.

WiderFunnel LIFT Model
The WiderFunnel LIFT Model.

We believed that visitors arriving from Facebook needed a stronger tie-in to the source media, and hypothesized that moving the Facebook icon above the page fold would improve relevance in this specific landing page context.

And, that hypothesis was proven to produce a winner: moving the widget to the top of the page yielded a 10.7% lift in completed orders!

This isn’t a one-off result: isolations like this help determine the sensitivity of users to various factors, often leading to more dramatic tests based on those insights.

No, we’re not talking about buttons, or bringing in BOB. Some of the most impactful small changes can involve testing your value proposition – AKA what makes your users tick? (Trust us, they want to tell you).

Value proposition tests can often entail just a few carefully-selected, yet highly impactful words. Taglines, for example, are great value proposition target area to test.

Are taglines important?

For another client, we created an experiment that added a tagline below their logo.

LIFT Model - Clarity example
Turns out, this logo just needed some clarification.

Again, this might seem like such a microscopic change – a few letters being rearranged like a half-hearted scrabble game – but think again!

After all, the right small changes can create big lift.

In the above test, all we did was isolate the changes of the copy – creating a value proposition that communicated ease for the user.

This was a sitewide test, which means every new visitor was entered into this experiment. The impact was astounding: a 67% increase in completed orders across the entire website!

Now, of course, that’s not a typical result for such a minor change. We believe it was so impactful because of a Clarity problem throughout the website. Our qualitative conversion analysis during the Explore phase of our optimization process had revealed an insight: many visitors weren’t sure what this particular company’s products did.

We hypothesized that adding a tagline to summarize what the company does would lift sales, and it did!

The two examples provided may not be impressive from a design perspective – no fancy overhauls, no methodical UX considerations. But, they both delivered big wins because they were based on great hypotheses.

What about dramatic changes?

This isn’t to say that dramatic redesign A/B tests aren’t also necessary. In many cases, it would be too time-consuming or even impossible to iterate your website or landing page from it’s current point to it’s ultimate potential.

Dramatic redesign tests should be used to create a consistent value proposition approach, to experiment with a new design treatment, or aim for fast and large revenue lift. The crux of the matter is knowing when to use which experimental design.

The art of the Optimization Strategist

This is where the art of the strategy comes into play. A skilled and experienced optimizer must balance the tradeoffs between testing large changes and small changes, taking into account traffic volumes, risk capacity, and the hypothesis pipeline.

A great experimental design will balance the competing variables and, over time, maximize both (a) revenue lift and (b) insights, producing what we call profitable ‘A-ha!’ moments on a regular basis.

What about your tests? Have you seen massive lifts from micro changes?

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