7 Tips for Building a Better Web Funnel


Recently Justin Winter wrote an article on this blog with some tips on how he grew his e-commerce candle business to $1M in revenue.  It’s a great story from a guy who’s doing the right things!

In his final tip, he recommends that you “dive into conversion rate optimization and take note from the people already doing this right. No reinvention, just adaption and iteration will get you there.”

So, as Founder of WiderFunnel (where we’ve run thousands of A/B tests since 2007), I’m here to show you steps you can take to make his tip a reality.

Let’s look at an example of how this process worked for one SaaS startup, Expensify, and how you can do it too.

Expensify’s Funnel Optimization

Expensify is an app that allows members to submit their expense reports directly from credit card statements imported from their bank, e-mail receipts, or by taking a photo of a paper receipt. The tool integrates this data into bookkeeping software and can act as the payment gateway for direct reimbursement payments.

It’s a fast-growing startup with a lean team facing large competitors. If you’re reading this blog post, the story is probably a familiar one.

The expensify.com home page is the company’s primary landing page for free online signups and it needed to be improved to produce more signups:

Expensify original

The home page had been developed with clean design “best practices” but the Expensify team believed it could be improved.

A Structured Approach to Conversion Optimization

Before creating test variations, WiderFunnel’s strategists started with a heuristic analysis of the marketing messages, combined with web analytics data to identify barriers to conversion.

One of the frameworks we use for analyzing pages is something that we call the “LIFT Model,” which looks at the 6 factors affecting your conversion rate: Value Proposition, Relevance, Clarity, Anxiety, Distraction and Urgency. What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter whether your company is big (with a giant testing budget) or small. These factors are always important.

LIFT Model 2013-10-3

During Expensify’s LIFT analysis, we identified headline alternatives, copy combinations, and design treatments that could increase Relevance, Clarity and Urgency while decreasing Anxiety and Distraction and reinforce the most important Value Proposition points.

You can use the LIFT Model to evaluate your pages and create hypotheses for scientifically testing new page designs too.

The Strategists found 16 LIFT problems on Expensify’s home page with the most important being a lack of Clarity about the main message and value proposition. We prioritized to top 12 hypotheses including:

  • Creating a high contrast box for the signup action
  • Presenting specific features to make the action more compelling
  • Reducing page scrolling to reduce Distraction.

The winning page design of all the options that were A/B/n tested in the first test round was significantly different from the original:

Expensify Rd1 Winner

Of course, just making a design change isn’t good enough for a startup. It needs to produce better results too!

Result: a 28% signup conversion rate lift

At the end of the day, the lift in business results are what matters. And a 28% lift makes it much easier for any business to spend more money to drive traffic to the website.

So, what made the difference for the winning page?

Improved Clarity:

  • Added a headline to anchor the eye
  • Added actionable CTA subhead
  • Increased prominence of CTA area
  • Increased the prominence of Free
  • Rewritten product features to be more compelling
  • Adding a secondary CTA bar when scrolling through features

Reduced Anxiety:

  • Added “no credit card required”

Reduced Distraction:

  • Removed the rotating carousel
  • Removed links that navigate off the page

In addition to the sign-up conversion rate lift, the team isolated four test factors to learn what specifically influenced the conversion rate, which you can see in detail in the case study.

We didn’t stop there.

Conversion Optimization Never Stops

Never be satisfied with one winning test. There’s always more to be gained.

In this case, there turned out to be a lot more improvement potential.

The second round tested several more different approaches and generated anadditional 15% increase in conversion over the first round for a total conversion rate lift of 47.2%. The accelerated signup rate from the tests also helped Expensify surpass their 1,000,000th customer benchmark, which they achieved during the second test round.

The new page is, again, dramatically different than the original and the previously winning page:

Expensify Final

While these tests were created based on proven conversion principles from thousands of tests, the winner couldn’t have been predicted without testing.

How You Can Get Results Like This Too

Here are some of the most important conversion optimization principles to get the best results.

1. Don’t be random – Use a structured approach.

2. Set your goals first – Test to improve real business results. For example, you might not want to lower your bounce rate!

3. Use A/B testing to find your value proposition – Are you hitting your prospects’ hot buttons? Use the PODs, POPs and POIs framework to find out.

4. Forget the epic site redesign without testing – Test to find the best website and funnel design. A/B testing is the only way to know what really works.

5. Tips and tricks are overrated – Use a strategic approach that removes your prospects’ barriers.

6. “Best Practices” are lies – If they haven’t been tested in your situation, so-called best practices could hurt your results.

7. Skip the piddly buttons tests – Test big and fast. Aim for the moon and, worst case, you’ll land amongst the stars.

Happy Testing!

 Chris Goward founded WiderFunnel with the belief that digital agencies should prove the value that they bring. His experiences include:

  • Developing conversion optimization programs for clients like Google, Electronic Arts, SAP, and Shutterfly
  • Writing the bestselling book, “You Should Test That
  • Helping organizations make dramatic business improvements and gain marketing insights

Schedule a call with him to talk about conversion optimization, landing page optimization, and A/B testing. 

Photo Credit: alphaspirit/Shutterstock

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