Searching Your Nonprofit’s Web Site—A vs. B Makes a Huge Difference

I’m a devoted participant in Anne Holland’s blog, Which Test Won. Participant rather than reader because each week Anne offers up a challenge, asking marketing geeks like us to vote on which version of the landing page design, e-news subscription form or donate here pop-up worked best: A vs. B. These are real-life marketing case studies!

This week’s test pinpoints the best way to design the search box on your nonprofit’s website. Which do you think works best, A vs. B?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Who cares? This is such a tiny difference.” Well, the truth is that tiny differences in layout and design can make a huge difference in your results.

This test was executed by Dell Computers, where the marketers found that version A is far easier and more satisfying to use, resulting in a 7% increase in dollar value of purchases over Version B. As Anne writes, “the winning version of this test omitted the word ‘Search’ in the search bar itself, and added a button with the ‘Search’ call to action. This gives the user more direction and lessens the onus on her to interpret icons, e.g. the magnify glass. Dell used multiple variations for this test, and each variation using the magnify glass icon did not perform as well as the Search Button.”

Think about it, you could generate an increase in donations or memberships this significant with just a tiny change like this one. But you need to test to know what changes to make.

A/B testing is easy to do with digital marketing channels. It’s a doable way to get tangible insights on your network’s wants, habits and preference that are guaranteed to increase your marketing results, including fundraising. And if you’re engaging folks via the web, email and/or mobile, your tools are already in place. I’ll be writing a lot more A/B testing this year.

 P.S. Get more in-depth case studies, templates and tools, and guidance for nonprofit marketing success in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on March 20, 2012 in Planning and Evaluation | 3 comments
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  • Indeed, even in blog designs or website layouts, the small things matter and have a big impact on results.

  • Great reminder to devote time to split testing. Increase a conversion rate from 1% to 2% and that’s 100% more leads / donations / enquiries / business!

  • monique cuvelier

    Nice service, Nancy. It’s similar to FiveSecondTest (, which we sometimes use, and which I wrote about in an article on how to get feedback on your website.

    I think the biggest takeaway here is that websites aren’t done the minute you launch. I always schedule twice-yearly check-ins with our clients and encourage them to continually think about changing things that aren’t working. Some people think if something isn’t performing well, you’ve failed or your designer has let you down. But the truth is, educated guesses are a start, but you can’t predict how someone will respond to your design. So keep testing, and find what works.

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