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Make Money: Thin Websites Sell More!

Mike Peters, 07-06-2007
How wide should your website be?

Should you design your site for 800x600 resolution or 1024x768?

If you monitor your website visitor screen resolution stats, the numbers probably resemble this chart:

Image

Research shows most users have switched to a resolution of 1024x768 or higher at a ratio of 2 to 1 compared to users who are still using 800x600.

Some experts claim it all depends on who your users are, what their needs are and what time of day it is...

Our main interest was what converts better.

It's not what looks better, what users like better or how do you fit as much as possible above the fold. It's all about what sells more.

We just had to know the real deal.

So as part of this Make Money with SoftwareProjects series, I am going to share with you the results of a three month case study we conducted, to answer the age-old question of what resolution should you design your website for.

Image Thin or Wide? Image

Case Study - Comparing conversion rates across a wide array of thin (800x600) vs wide (1024x768) landing pages

Details - We designed 5 landing pages, across different industries and divided the sites to three groups.

5_ThinSites: Landing pages designed to fit 800x600 resolution
5_WideSites: Landing pages designed to fit 1024x768 resolution
5_ResizableSites: Landing pages designed to fit 100% of page width, displaying properly under both 800x600 and 1024x768 resolutions.

Each group of landing pages contained two mortgage-leads sites, one business-leads site, one diet-pills site and one ringtones site.

We used the same 5 landing pages across each of the three groups, redesigning the pages so that they fit each resolution.

The Test -

Over a period of 90 days, we used Email Marketing, Pay Per Click and Link building techniques to drive traffic to the three groups of sites. Every campaign was designed to split traffic evenly across the pages.

So for example an email campaign that generated 100 clicks, click1 was sent to site1 of first group, click2 was sent to site1 of second group, click3 was sent to site1 of third group etc.

Results -

See below a chart summarizing the results over 90 days across 15 landing pages:

Image

The results clearly show visitors to the thin sites (designed for 800x600 resolution) spent less time on the site (it was easier to find what they wanted), less users bounced from the site without reading through and most importantly - thin sites achieved a conversion rate of 4.4%, which is 37% better than the resizable-sites (made to fit) and 8% better than the wide sites.

Explanation:

Yes, most users have resolutions far higher than 800x600 these days. But when your site takes 1024 pixels wide or worse yet, 100% of the screen width, users are forced to concentrate harder moving their eyes left to right and back as they read through your site.

61% of the users left the wide sites without reading any further, compared to only 42% with the thin sites.

The conclusion is clear: Design sites to fit 800x600 and you'll dramatically increase your bottom line. Limiting yourself to 800 pixels wide, will force you to clean up pages and not clutter them with too much information.

If you absolutely have to go wider, do so AFTER the conversion event, or after users login to the site. Keep the external store and landing pages to a maximum of 800 pixels wide.

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For those of you who don't know the "rules" behind the Make Money with SoftwareProjects series, here they are:

Every Friday, SoftwareProjects will post a new "make money by doing X" post. It can be an invitation to perform a service, a tried-and-tested technique to immediately boost sales, free traffic etc. The only requirement is that whatever we post as part of our "Make Money by doing X" series - must be stuff you can immediately take to the bank, and not just vague ideas.

Hopefully this series will encourage & inspire new entreprenuers, provide value to business owners and demonstrate the depth and breatdh of SoftwareProjects services. Feel free to link to this series and blog about it.

Jim Cook, 07-11-2007
I'm not sure I can get behind this. Even though multiple companies in the same business line (say, mortgage leads) were selected for the test, you could very easily have pitted A+ Mortgage, Inc. against Less-Than-Average Mortgage Co. In this scenario, the differences would be easily accounted for. I think a more fair test would be multiple widths for the same company's site.

Mike Peters, 07-23-2007
Jim - We compared 5 identical pages across different resolutions. The companies were not all A+ companies, it was a mixture.

The reason we conducted this research is because we've seen a hint of these findings with the hundreds of other landing pages we developed.

Anonymous, 07-23-2007
Given the screenshot you posted, I wouldn't really buy into your conclusions because you never really adjusted your designs to fit the varying widths. I think I can agree that have a landing page take up 100% of the available width is a bad thing, but it's not because the user is spending time turning their head to read content (that's a pretty poor argument); rather it's because users like to see visual boundaries -- where the content of the site begins and ends. Your widened versions appear to do a poor job of managing the space and as a result look more amateur than the thinner, more condensed versions. There are multiple problems that I can spot right away with your widescreen version -- for example, the user preferred width of a column of text is 3.5", and the right-hand utilities section of the header appears to be disconnected from the rest of the page. Problems such as those, stemming from the design of the page (independent of its width) are probably more than enough to explain the difference in bounce rates.

Furthermore, are you arguing that the decision made by CNN, Digg, CNet (et al.) to switch to a native 1024x768 design was wrong? I think the conservative argument you make in your post is quite backward -- online store owners would do better to expand their site designs and provide an enhanced experience for customers.

Mike Peters, 07-23-2007
Thank you Anonymous for the excellent post!

While it is true CNN, Digg, CNet and others have chosen to switch to 1024x768, these sites target a different profile of users than the target demographics of our study.

SoftwareProjects is in the business of building websites that "sell". And by sell I am referring to the ability to convert an anonymous website visitor who is visiting a new website for the first time, into a qualified lead and then a paying customer.

Users frequenting Digg and CNet are in a completely different mindset, than someone looking to get a mortgage quote, or a user who is surfing the net looking for a new bookshelf.

For these type of websites, promoting a specific product/service, it's been shown you typically have 4 seconds to convince the user to stick around, before they hit the BACK button.

Our research conversion data shows users were more comfortable buying when presented with a thin website.

If you examine popular retail sites targeting the average Internet user, you'll find they all follow a similar paradigm: Overstock.com, Target.com, BuyOwner.com, WalMart.com etc. - are all designed as "thin" sites, deliberately not utilizing the entire width of the page.

Marijn Kampf, 07-24-2007
Did you record the screen resolutions for visitors that made a conversion? It would be interesting to see whether the different landing page versions performed better/worse for specific screen resolutions.

Mike Peters, 11-07-2007
Marijn,

No - we did not record that information.

However, we are currently going through a more elaborate study that will reveal a few surprising findings that no one ever expected, about how small changes to your website, significantly increase your website "stickiness" factor.

Subscribe to the RSS feed to receive an update once we announce it.
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