A/B Testing: Giving the Left More Love

Our friends at Wider Funnel and WhichTestWon.com were surprised to find that an unconventional left-hand placement of the add to cart button on BabyAge.com outperformed right-hand placement in an A/B split test, achieving a 16.7% higher conversion rate.

The discovery was surprising because it seems 99.9% of online stores place the cart button on the right hand side, and you’d think that customers have been conditioned to look for the cart button there. But in light of Jakob Nielsen’s recent research that found that horizontal attention leans left, BabyAge’s test result doesn’t seem that peculiar.

Nielsen reports “Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half.” Could it be that the left-hand placement converted better because customers’ eyeballs tend to spend far more time on the left of a page than the right?

Hat tip to Brendan Regan from FutureNow for finding a downloadable overlay tool from the Conversion Voodoo Blog. It’s a (kind of) heat map based on Nielsen’s findings that you can superimpose over your landing page to see where most user attention-time is spent. The tool can be downloaded as a .png or a .jpg.

Check out how BabyAge’s product page looks with the overlay vs. Amazon’s conventional right-hand placement of the cart button:

The question is, what if BabyAge tested the cart button in the “sweet spot”?

Or a better question, what if you tested this on your ecommerce site?

Post-script: ConversionVoodoo makes a good point that Nielsen’s tests were performed on static 1024×768 resolutions, which may not reflect the majority of web users, and the examples focused on content sites, not necessarily ecommerce pages. Nevertheless, this research may push you in the direction to test calls to action and other important elements on your site on the left side instead of the right, and find out for yourself whether it can move the needle on your own conversion rates.


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17 Responses to “A/B Testing: Giving the Left More Love”

  1. Sharon says:

    As usual Linda, very interesting. How ever, it seems that its not intuitive and “flowing” to see the image on the right, choose the size on the right and them move the mouse allll the way to the left? don’t you think?

  2. Very interesting. In France, one of the bigest e-commerce website change the product detail page and currently place the call to action in the left. But it seems that they don’t make any split test : http://www.cdiscount.com/home/default.asp

  3. giulio says:

    great stuff!

    Do we have any insights on the post-purchase experience?
    Did generating more conversions turned out to generate also more (in %) non-optimal buyer experiences?

    e.g. buyers does not focus on description enough, purchases immediately and gets an item that he/she with some difference to what he had in his/her mind?

    • That brings up a good point Giulio that in some cases one might want to tie customer support tickets to user ID flagged by which version of the site test he/she viewed. Especially when you are testing short copy vs. long, for example, or presence of reviews vs. no reviews. Not sure if any testing tools accommodate this.

  4. Jack says:

    Great blog post – thanks for the links to the tool as well.

    Due to a picture sizing issue we had on our e-commerce site, it had been suggested that we swap the add to cart button (which was on the right side) with the product photo (which was on the left side).

    Based on traditional site design wisdom, we were a bit afraid to do that but I think that after reading this, it might be worth a shot to test it.

    • @Jack, absolutely, never hurts to test – and if you want to reduce your “risk” – just dilute your test by showing more versions of the same control against the treatment, e.g. A/B/C/D test, only “D” is the treatment, only 25% of traffic exposed to the test. This will, however, make your test run that much longer…

  5. Thanks for featuring this test result, Linda. It was a surprising result and leads to more hypotheses.

    @Sharon It did seem unintuitive to put the CTA on the left with image on the right, and we almost didn’t test this variation (it was one of several tested concurrently). But it doesn’t really matter what it “seems” like if it lifts sales conversions, right? That’s why we test – to avoid gut feeling and opinion :)

    Chris

    • Sharon says:

      @Chris you are so right, this is what testing is for! Sometimes our gut feeling mislead us.
      Regarding results, conversion has many variables that can influence it: time, source of traffic, etc. Did you guys took these in account? Were the conversions from the same sources or different ones? Were there different campaigns?

      • Good questions, Sharon.

        This test was run as a controlled experiment on the same traffic mix and with all variations tested at the same time. For every visitor to the page we randomly selected one of the variations to display and then cookied them to ensure they saw the same page template for every page and every time they returned to the site.

        The conversion rate to sale was tracked for each variation and the winning page had a statistically significant result at a 95% confidence level.

        The original test was also run over several weeks to iron out day-of-week seasonality and then the winning page was tested a second time against the Control to be double-sure that it was indeed a winner.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Its always worth a test!

    My company tried a similar test and found that the typical left-hand image, right-hand add-to-cart outperformed the other test cases.

    I’d be interested in seeing their alternative page (the one that did not win the split test). Sometimes it is also the subtler changes that are necessary to implement the major change that can make a difference

  7. db says:

    @giulio, really good question.

    CR of the action block («Add to Cart») increased, but did it cause more purchases?

  8. Mike says:

    This really works and i think we all should test possible design tests, i used to do this test with google optimizer combination with PPC ads which gives me more better idea about the traffic increase

  9. Hm… this might have something to do with demographics of their visitors. I can’t imagine myself clicking on add to cart button on the left side. It simply makes no sense to me.

  10. Robi says:

    I personally think that the position of the call to action is not the only parameter. The color of it, the pictures in the page, the colors, … and lot of other items on the page will all have an impact on the conversion.

    To summarize, it will depend on the site and the context of use.

    My 50 cents …

  11. Phil says:

    This really works and i think we all should test possible design tests, i used to do this test with google optimizer combination.

  12. NICK says:

    great stuff!

    Do we have any insights on the post-purchase experience?
    Did generating more conversions turned out to generate also more (in %) non-optimal buyer experiences?……….
    My company tried a similar test and found that the typical left-hand image, right-hand add-to-cart outperformed the other test cases.

    thanks for sharing….

  13. sam says:

    Great blog post – thanks for the links to the tool as well.
    Due to a picture sizing issue we had on our e-commerce site, it had been suggested that we swap the add to cart button (which was on the right side) with the product photo (which was on the left side.This really works and i think we all should test possible design tests.Thanks for sharing..

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