Ideas & musings about consumer behaviour

Don’t cripple your online sales potential with pretty pixels – a real-life case study

The conflict between usability and design has long been the subject of many debates.

While we recognise that interface design has come a very long way, the integration between visual interface design and user experience design teams can vary dramatically. It is this disconnect where costly problems can rear their head.

So how do we find the right balance between design and usability? At what point in the design process do we consider whether consumers can effortlessly and confidently complete what they came to do on a website? When do we know if the design has taken over the ease of navigating the site or when the site does not engage enough?

‘Design’ is critical in creating engagement with your brand and with your content. We all know how important the first few seconds are for a consumer in deciding whether they stay or go. But, design always lives in context, and that context always has a strong usability quotient. While you might have the prettiest design on the block, it may just end up being the least effective.

 So we dug into our data set

With this in mind we thought we would investigate, from data captured over the past 12 months and across multiple industries, consumer perceptions and success rates in navigating to desired content between the old and new designs.

In the main, while these sites looked more visually appealing to us, when you ask 50 people you start to see a clear pattern emerging. What we found, may or may not surprise you.

What we found was while the initial ‘impression’ scores for the homepage, in terms of visual design appeal, trust, clutter and a clear starting point increased, once asked to complete a task (general or specific), the consumers were less successful in finding the right path and content in 75% of the examples. Levels of satisfaction dropped with 10% or more on average across the site journey.

We are not saying this is always going to be the case, but found it rather intriguing to investigate.

Let’s look at the example of AGL

The following represents the performance of the AGL website before and after a redesign.

graph 14-feb-14In the case of AGL what we see is that the initial impression score on average increased by a whole point from 7.0 to 8.0 (on a scale from 1-10) and all 7 individual metrics increased as well.

The strong design trend that’s emerging is being derived from a ‘mobile first’ mentality where technology adoption (of smartphones and tablets) has changed consumer behaviour. Simplicity and page scrolling (which is now second nature) is dominating the design, with big banners, larger tiles and minimalistic content. Our evidence shows that consumers are in favour of this direction.

While we don’t dismiss the positives in this, we want to point out that this is where we get down to the point of this article – because from an appealing starting point, the consumer must be able to find what they are looking for quickly and easily.

So our second point of investigation was to look into how well the tasks performed on the old vs. new AGL website, which offered a more appealing starting point.

secondIn this example of AGL Energy, when consumers were tasked to find the product range, a price point or match an energy product to their needs, they were not only less successful in finding the right information, their satisfaction with the experience also dropped – two factors that are critical for an optimised website in order to convert browsers into buyers. For the AGL website, both scores dropped with an average success rate score of just 38% and a satisfaction score that dropped nearly 20 percentage points.

What can we learn?

While this is not always going to be the case, it is important to recognise the balance between Design and Usability and the context they co-exist in.

Some important lessons to be learnt here are:

  1. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Commit to understand what’s working with what you’re currently doing and optimise what is not
  2. Understand what represents a best practice customer sales journey and stick to these principles
  3. Communicate what makes your brand special, but put the customer first. Not the other way around
  4. Integrate your design teams to work on the project together. Knowing the potential impact of design decisions can save you plenty of money and time
  5. Finally, focus on measuring the things that matter. If you’re trying to sell something online, then make sure the measurements you’re capturing align to maximising this goal.

At Global Reviews, we measure thousands of customer sales journeys of the world’s brands every year and we assist clients maximise potential online. Over time we have learnt what works and what customers expect. While always well-intentioned, we often see some performance metrics drop post a redesign. Getting the right information going in to any process can save you money, both in the rework and lost sales opportunities.

Download a presentation pack of this study via SlideShare

For more information on this or other studies please contact:

Ché Carbis
Senior Commercial Director
T: +61 3 9982 3419
M: +61 411 962 857


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