How Many Columns Should I Use?
How using the best page layout led to a 681% relative
increase
We’re sharing on Twitter!
#WebClinic
Today’s speakers
Jon Powell
Senior Manager
Research and Strategy
MECLABS
@jonpowell31 Marketing research practitioner with...
Today’s topic
A

?

B

C

D

Given a choice between these particular page templates, which
would you choose for your offer...
Today’s topic

?

What is the highest performing layout
(number of columns) for my webpages?
How do I know which one to ch...
Experiment 1: Background
Experiment ID: TP1736a
Record Location: MECLABS Research Library
Research Partner: [Protected]
Ba...
Experiment 1: Control
2-Column Layout

COLUMN #1

COLUMN #2
Experiment 1: Treatment
1-Column Layout

COLUMN #1
Experiment 1: Side-by-side
2-Column Layout

COLUMN #1

COLUMN #2

1-Column Layout

COLUMN #1
Experiment 1: Results

681% Relative Increase in Orders

The one-column treatment design increased branded search orders b...
Audience question
2-Column Layout

?

1-Column Layout

Why did the single-column page layout have a significant
increase i...
Experiment: Results
From the Test Protocol:
“The eye path of the page is
confusing to users … ”

“ … by providing a linear...
Similar findings

Protocol IDs: TP1306

Example: Main offer page

2-Column Layout

1-Column Layout

266%
In Clicks
Similar findings

Protocol IDs: TP1356, TP1407

Example: Transaction page

2-Column Layout

1-Column Layout

22%

In Compl...
?

Is there an underlying theory for choosing
the highest performing page layout?
Experiment 2: Background
Experiment ID: TP1736b
Record Location: MECLABS Research Library
Research Partner: [Protected]
Ba...
Experiment 2: Side-by-side
2-Column Layout

COLUMN #1

COLUMN #2

1-Column Layout

COLUMN #1
Experiment 2: Results

85% Relative Decrease in Orders

The one-column treatment design decreased non-branded search order...
Experiment 2: Results

?

Why did the winning page layout suddenly
underperform in the same channel?
To help answer this
question, we accessed
our library of case
studies for a deeper
study and isolated tests
where page lay...
TP1460
We then conducted a
meta-analysis of those Test
Protocols to uncover
patterns in performance.

TP1457

TP1621

TP17...
Initial findings

!

There appeared to be performance patterns for each page in the conversion path …
Initial findings

!

However, the patterns were not clear due to numerous outliers.
Outlier

Protocol IDs: TP1268

Example: Transaction page

3 Columns

2 Columns

54%

15%

In Revenue per Order

In Revenue...
Outlier

Protocol IDs: TP1457

Example: Main offer page

2-Column Layout

60%

In Conversions

1-Column Layout
Outlier

Protocol IDs: TP1165, TP1182

Example: Directory page

3 Columns

1 Column

5.8%

7.5%

Everyday Traffic

Holiday...
Back to the original question

?

Is there an underlying theory for choosing
the highest performing page layout?
Experiment: Analysis
When we took a closer
look at TP1737a-b, each
winning page is
essentially in the same
position in the...
Experiment: Analysis
(Ma)YES

They are NOT,
however, in the
same position in
the customer
funnel.

Y

(Mi)YES
(Mi)YES

A W...
Meta-analysis results
(Ma)YES
Y

(Mi)YES

We recategorized each Test Protocol
in the analysis according to its stage
in th...
Meta-analysis results
Number of
Columns
Less

(Ma)YES

Column Weight
Uneven

Y

(Mi)YES
(Mi)YES

At the beginning of the
t...
Meta-analysis results
Number of
Columns
Less

(Ma)YES

Column Weight
Uneven

Y

(Mi)YES
(Mi)YES

As the thought sequence
p...
On the ideal number of columns

F

Key Principles

1. First, we must understand there is no single answer to the question,...
Live Optimization
Columns
Live Optimization
Tracky
Primary Audience: Business and consumers
Primary Objective: Awareness

http://bit.ly/1aJj4sL

#We...
Live Optimization
Santa Fe Way
Primary Audience: Health enthusiasts
Primary Objective: Information page

http://bit.ly/1c3...
Live Optimization
Windstream
Primary Audience: B2C
Primary Objective: Lead gen/sales

http://bit.ly/1f6PyP1

#WebClinic
Live Optimization
Environmental Defense Fund
Primary Audience: Potential donors
Primary Objective: Raise funds

http://bit...
Live Optimization
StudyAbroad.com
Primary Audience: Students
Primary Objective: Info page

http://bit.ly/KGhAG1

#WebClini...
Live Optimization
Declaring Bankruptcy
Primary Audience: B2C
Primary Objective: Lead generation

http://bit.ly/1biojwl

#W...
Live Optimization
Jewish Federation
Primary Audience: Members
Primary Objective: Fundraising

http://bit.ly/1f6PyhV

#WebC...
Live Optimization
IHG
Primary Audience: B2C
Primary Objective: Lead generation

http://bit.ly/JH3dkj

#WebClinic
Live Optimization
Applied Inspirations
Primary Audience: B2C
Primary Objective: Sales

http://bit.ly/1dvTJ24

#WebClinic
Next Clinic: Background
Experiment ID: TP2136
Record Location: MECLABS Research Library
Research Partner: [Protected]

Bac...
Next Clinic: Email template
Next Clinic: Email template
Next Clinic: Version A
Next Clinic: Version B
Next Clinic: Side-by-Side

Version A

Version B

“Shop Now”

“View Details”
Which treatment won?
To see the results
Live Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. EST

Join the live 35-minute Web clinic
• How can I get the most clickthrough fo...
See how you can conduct research with us
MECLABS conducts rigorous experiments in the new science of optimization. We appl...
How Many Columns Should I Use? How using the best page layout led to a 681% relative increase
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How Many Columns Should I Use? How using the best page layout led to a 681% relative increase

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Think for a few seconds about a page or email you manage. How many columns does it have? Do you know whether that is the optimal number? If you do know, have you tested it? What if you could improve the performance of the piece by adding or removing columns?

In our next clinic we’ll be drawing on about 15 years of research on optimizing columns and layout for the web to help you discover the best way to layout your page or email.

Some of the questions we are planning on answering are:

• What is the optimal number of columns for a page?
• How should I weight columns on the page?
• Which is better, a right sidebar or left sidebar?

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How Many Columns Should I Use? How using the best page layout led to a 681% relative increase

  1. 1. How Many Columns Should I Use? How using the best page layout led to a 681% relative increase
  2. 2. We’re sharing on Twitter! #WebClinic
  3. 3. Today’s speakers Jon Powell Senior Manager Research and Strategy MECLABS @jonpowell31 Marketing research practitioner with 7 years of hands-on experience gained through managing hundreds of A/B and multivariate tests for e-commerce, health care, financial and education Research Partners.
  4. 4. Today’s topic A ? B C D Given a choice between these particular page templates, which would you choose for your offer pages? Why?
  5. 5. Today’s topic ? What is the highest performing layout (number of columns) for my webpages? How do I know which one to choose?
  6. 6. Experiment 1: Background Experiment ID: TP1736a Record Location: MECLABS Research Library Research Partner: [Protected] Background: A large technology company selling software to small businesses. Goal: To significantly increase the number of software purchases from paid search traffic (branded terms). Research Question: Which column layout will generate the highest rate of software purchases? Test Design: A/B multifactor split test
  7. 7. Experiment 1: Control 2-Column Layout COLUMN #1 COLUMN #2
  8. 8. Experiment 1: Treatment 1-Column Layout COLUMN #1
  9. 9. Experiment 1: Side-by-side 2-Column Layout COLUMN #1 COLUMN #2 1-Column Layout COLUMN #1
  10. 10. Experiment 1: Results 681% Relative Increase in Orders The one-column treatment design increased branded search orders by 680.6% and revenue per visit by 606.7% when tested against the two-column control design. Design Order Rate Revenue/Visit Control – 2 Columns 0.20%* $0.50* Treatment – 1 Column 1.58%* $3.56* 680.6% 606.7% % Relative Change: *Absolute performance rates and numbers have been anonymized
  11. 11. Audience question 2-Column Layout ? 1-Column Layout Why did the single-column page layout have a significant increase in results?
  12. 12. Experiment: Results From the Test Protocol: “The eye path of the page is confusing to users … ” “ … by providing a linear eye path, distractions will be removed and will cause an increase in conversion.” *Certain sections of content have been anonymized for the Partner
  13. 13. Similar findings Protocol IDs: TP1306 Example: Main offer page 2-Column Layout 1-Column Layout 266% In Clicks
  14. 14. Similar findings Protocol IDs: TP1356, TP1407 Example: Transaction page 2-Column Layout 1-Column Layout 22% In Completed Orders
  15. 15. ? Is there an underlying theory for choosing the highest performing page layout?
  16. 16. Experiment 2: Background Experiment ID: TP1736b Record Location: MECLABS Research Library Research Partner: [Protected] Background: A large technology company selling software to small businesses. Goal: To significantly increase the number of software purchases from paid search traffic (non-branded terms). Research Question: Which column layout will generate the highest rate of software purchases? Test Design: A/B multifactor split test
  17. 17. Experiment 2: Side-by-side 2-Column Layout COLUMN #1 COLUMN #2 1-Column Layout COLUMN #1
  18. 18. Experiment 2: Results 85% Relative Decrease in Orders The one-column treatment design decreased non-branded search orders by 84.9% and revenue per visit by 67% when tested against the two-column control design. Design Order Rate Revenue/Visit Control – 2 Columns 5.69%* $19.78* Treatment – 1 Column 0.86%* $6.53* -84.9% -67.0% % Relative Change: *Absolute performance rates and numbers have been anonymized
  19. 19. Experiment 2: Results ? Why did the winning page layout suddenly underperform in the same channel?
  20. 20. To help answer this question, we accessed our library of case studies for a deeper study and isolated tests where page layout was a primary variable.
  21. 21. TP1460 We then conducted a meta-analysis of those Test Protocols to uncover patterns in performance. TP1457 TP1621 TP1746 TP1306 TP1356 TP1560 TP1633 TP1267 TP1315 TP1639 TP1268 TP1499 TP1658 TP1636 TP1203 TP1635 TP1498 TP1165 TP1475 TP1192 TP1182 TP1469 TP1091 TP1460 TP1585 TP1214 TP1503 TP1422 TP1500 TP1488 TP1616 TP1511 Plus many more Protocols …
  22. 22. Initial findings ! There appeared to be performance patterns for each page in the conversion path …
  23. 23. Initial findings ! However, the patterns were not clear due to numerous outliers.
  24. 24. Outlier Protocol IDs: TP1268 Example: Transaction page 3 Columns 2 Columns 54% 15% In Revenue per Order In Revenue per Order Homepage traffic Shopping cart traffic
  25. 25. Outlier Protocol IDs: TP1457 Example: Main offer page 2-Column Layout 60% In Conversions 1-Column Layout
  26. 26. Outlier Protocol IDs: TP1165, TP1182 Example: Directory page 3 Columns 1 Column 5.8% 7.5% Everyday Traffic Holiday Traffic In Searches In Searches
  27. 27. Back to the original question ? Is there an underlying theory for choosing the highest performing page layout?
  28. 28. Experiment: Analysis When we took a closer look at TP1737a-b, each winning page is essentially in the same position in the conversion funnel. Main Offer Page Channel Directory Pages Homepage Category Page Checkout Path Thank You Page
  29. 29. Experiment: Analysis (Ma)YES They are NOT, however, in the same position in the customer funnel. Y (Mi)YES (Mi)YES A Web search using brand language indicates prior knowledge of the value proposition. A generic Web search does not, requiring more clarity of value. (Mi)YES (Mi)YES Branded Winner (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES Non-Branded Winner Value Proposition (Mi)YES
  30. 30. Meta-analysis results (Ma)YES Y (Mi)YES We recategorized each Test Protocol in the analysis according to its stage in the customer thought sequence (as opposed to the conversion path). (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES In doing this, we discovered a single pattern that encompassed all Test Protocols analyzed. (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES Value Proposition (Mi)YES
  31. 31. Meta-analysis results Number of Columns Less (Ma)YES Column Weight Uneven Y (Mi)YES (Mi)YES At the beginning of the thought sequence, the highest performing pages often have three or more columns that are evenly weighted. (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (ex: 33%/33%/33%) (Mi)YES (Mi)YES More Even Value Proposition (Mi)YES
  32. 32. Meta-analysis results Number of Columns Less (Ma)YES Column Weight Uneven Y (Mi)YES (Mi)YES As the thought sequence progresses, column counts in high-performing pages drop. If there are two columns, they are unevenly weighted. (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (Mi)YES (70%/30% or 80%/20%) (Mi)YES (Mi)YES More Even Value Proposition (Mi)YES
  33. 33. On the ideal number of columns F Key Principles 1. First, we must understand there is no single answer to the question, “How many columns should I use?” Sometimes “less” is optimal; and sometimes “more” is optimal. 2. To begin answering this question, we must understand where the customer is in the mental (not physical) conversion funnel. From there, we can apply two underlying principles: 1. The more we know about what the visitor wants, the more we should focus on that desire (less columns; unequally weighted). 2. The less we know about what the visitor wants, the more we should enable the them to self-select (more columns; equally weighted)
  34. 34. Live Optimization Columns
  35. 35. Live Optimization Tracky Primary Audience: Business and consumers Primary Objective: Awareness http://bit.ly/1aJj4sL #WebClinic
  36. 36. Live Optimization Santa Fe Way Primary Audience: Health enthusiasts Primary Objective: Information page http://bit.ly/1c3zQDN #WebClinic
  37. 37. Live Optimization Windstream Primary Audience: B2C Primary Objective: Lead gen/sales http://bit.ly/1f6PyP1 #WebClinic
  38. 38. Live Optimization Environmental Defense Fund Primary Audience: Potential donors Primary Objective: Raise funds http://bit.ly/1aqws7k #WebClinic
  39. 39. Live Optimization StudyAbroad.com Primary Audience: Students Primary Objective: Info page http://bit.ly/KGhAG1 #WebClinic
  40. 40. Live Optimization Declaring Bankruptcy Primary Audience: B2C Primary Objective: Lead generation http://bit.ly/1biojwl #WebClinic
  41. 41. Live Optimization Jewish Federation Primary Audience: Members Primary Objective: Fundraising http://bit.ly/1f6PyhV #WebClinic
  42. 42. Live Optimization IHG Primary Audience: B2C Primary Objective: Lead generation http://bit.ly/JH3dkj #WebClinic
  43. 43. Live Optimization Applied Inspirations Primary Audience: B2C Primary Objective: Sales http://bit.ly/1dvTJ24 #WebClinic
  44. 44. Next Clinic: Background Experiment ID: TP2136 Record Location: MECLABS Research Library Research Partner: [Protected] Background: A large, well-known audio technology and engineering company offering professional and personal audio products. Goal: To significantly increase the number clicks from a promotional email. Research Question: Which email call-to-action copy will produce the greatest clickthrough rate? Test Design: A/B single factorial split test
  45. 45. Next Clinic: Email template
  46. 46. Next Clinic: Email template
  47. 47. Next Clinic: Version A
  48. 48. Next Clinic: Version B
  49. 49. Next Clinic: Side-by-Side Version A Version B “Shop Now” “View Details”
  50. 50. Which treatment won?
  51. 51. To see the results Live Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. EST Join the live 35-minute Web clinic • How can I get the most clickthrough for the least effort? • Which call-to-action copy works best for promotional emails? • How does copywriting change for newsletters and nurturebased emails? To join live, register at the link below: MarketingExperiments.com/TwoWordsEmail
  52. 52. See how you can conduct research with us MECLABS conducts rigorous experiments in the new science of optimization. We apply our discoveries to help leaders optimize the financial performance of their sales and marketing programs. Learn more about how you may be a fit for a MECLABS Research Rartnership: • Select Research Partnership Opportunities on the postwebinar survey • Contact us directly info@MECLABS.com 1-877-635-0565 x
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