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Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

Friday, April 25, 2008 4/25/2008 08:30:00 AM

People say pictures are worth a thousand words, and some industry experts even argue that you should always have them — the bigger, the more friendly, the better. But whenever you hear someone say "always," that's your first clue to test that claim (if for no other reason than to become a website-design myth-buster). We came across an interesting case study from WiderFunnel Marketing, one of our Website Optimizer Authorized Consultants, that illustrates this very point.

WiderFunnel's client, Safe Software, wanted to maximize the number of people downloading a trial version of their software application. They sought to make the Trial Version Download Page more effective by getting more visitors to click on the download button. Here was the original version of the page:

The website owner had meant to update this page for some time. Working with Safe Software, WiderFunnel developed two alternate versions of the page which they envisioned to be more modern and visually appealing. One version had a big picture of a smiling model, a number of points outlining the benefits of the software, and a clear call to action. The other version maintained the distinct call to action, but removed the picture and benefits points.

Alternate version 1:

Alternate version 2:

The team at Safe Software wasn't sure which of these versions (original, version 1, or version 2) would lead to the most conversions. If you're an avid reader of online marketing best-practices literature, you might predict that the version with the picture and benefits would outperform the others. After all, aren't pictures and useful information always good things to show to visitors? What's noteworthy is that the winning page was actually version 1: no picture and not as many supporting arguments. Even more surprising is that the original page outperformed version 2!

After the fact, we might hypothesize that the preceding pages did all the selling and that at that point, visitors just wanted to get their hands on the application. Perhaps the image distracted visitors, or perhaps some of the supporting arguments raised more questions than answers.

What's certain, though, is that the winning version led to a 15% increase in conversions. These results go to show you that what you (or 'the industry') think works best often doesn't, and you never know until you test it.