Musings from Mike Atkinson on Internet strategy, usability, and more...

Additional evidence for simplicity

I was reading a case study at Marketing Sherpa a while ago and was struck again at how research continually shows that the more simple an interface is, the more successful it is.

The case study involved pioneering online financial content provider and service Motley Fool. They were researching ways to increase registrations for their free email newsletter.

The site employs a pop-up when a visitor hits the homepage, or wants to advance to their content. (Discussing the use of pop-ups is not the purpose of this post, though.) They decided to use multivariable testing to determine the best format for the pop-up. (Multivariable testing is deploying a wide variety of prototypes at once and evaluating their effectiveness in the results.)

Here are some of the variables in the testing:

  • Using “membership” instead of “sign-up”
  • Longer copy describing benefits
  • A free bonus report ($29 value)
  • Offering topical affinity choices
  • Varying the button wording, like “Become a member” and “Click Here – It’s Free!”

From the Sherpa:

What worked? Extreme simplicity. Shorter copy, simpler layout, simpler offer. People would rather just signup than become a member and get bonuses…Example – the winning button says “Click Here – It’s Free!”

Check out the current version on their site (which is now an overlay, not a pop-up).

Time after time, folks learn this same lesson…less IS more. It can be a challenge to convince others in your organization of this fact, but it’s critical to your success. Sometimes you just have to prove it to them.

You can get a copy of the case study for nine bux at the Marketing Sherpa store.


  1. I can’t even begin to describe how annoying that is. I can’t think of anything they could have done to drive me away from their site faster.
    Topher    Monday, May 23, 2005    #
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