3 Lessons We Learned From Our Clients about “Design vs Content”

This is a guest post from our Friends over at PadiAct

It seems that people love the debate of “design vs content”, they love to argue about which one is more important than the other. Is it design because it delivers the overall first impression? Is it content because it delivers the message? By now, I’m sure you realize this is a chicken – egg problem, and it has no possible outcome that will make anyone happy. So, instead of debating whichever trumps the other, what if we look at how a balanced approach between design and content can make everything better and help us capture more leads? Sounds cool to you? Great, let’s dive in…

So far, Padiact collected over 2,456,085 leads for our customers (we have a real-time counter on our website), so we have a few insights that we want to share with you. We’ve seen thousands of subscription forms, and we learned a lot from all of these, and today we are sharing 3 of these lessons with you.

1. When in doubt, A/B Test your assumptions

“Web design and content are like the yin and the yang, perfectly balancing one another. Or, if you prefer to think of it in terms of form vs. function, great website design is the Form that creates the vital first impression. Content is the Function, the device that attracts search engines, intrigues your audience, and drives measurable results.” – Jeff Kline, Accrinet 

Cool quote, right? Well, we also have a great experiment to back it up.

A big apparel company has used PadiAct to capture more subscribers for their email lists, and they ran an A/B test, to see if they can further tweak their results. These are the 2 Subscriptions Forms they created for the A/B Test.


Subscription form no. 1 looks simple and cool. It inspires action, courage and initiative, Subscription form no. 2 looks kinda “boring”, compared to the first one. No image, but it’s more straight to the point. The copy is exactly the same. So, which one do you think captured more emails? The first one, or the second one?

………………………………………………………………………drum rolls………………………………………………………………………

Here are the results:

The A Variant is the “boring one”. Somehow, it provided 30% more subscribers than the first one. WHY? We can speculate a lot, but most of the people would assume that the more stylish subscription form would’ve delivered betters results, just because it looks better. But as you can see, that wasn’t the case. Better looking doesn’t equal better results. If the guys from the apparel company would have cared only about the design of the subscription box, they would have earned 30% less subscriptions. Considering that 30% translates into 1431 less potential customers, that bias towards choosing more stylish/pretty forms would have costed them a lot of money. Good thing they used PadiAct and A/B tested their assumption, right? This is what you should do too. You should A/B test your assumption every time you have the chance to do that.

2. Context is key

People say they have a problem with pop-ups, but I don’t really believe that. What I do believe, is that people have a problem with a bad selling propositions. Let’s say I’m browsing a big electronics ecommerce website, and I’m mainly focused on the laptop, desktops and tablets section of the website. I’m there for more than 10 minutes, and I think I checked out a dozen products. I even added a few to my wishlist and compared two products against each other. Then, out of the sudden, the website is showing me a subscription form, and it’s asking me if I want to subscribe to get their newsletter. I gracefully hit the “X” mark on their subscription form. Why? Because they didn’t adapted to the context. They didn’t targeted me in the right way.

How could they improve their copy? Easy as 1-2-3. I only visited a section from their website. They could’ve analyzed my browsing behavior and displayed a customized subscription form, asking me for my email and giving me a discount or free shipping or something else if I would have ordered in the next 30 days. Target me like that and you will earn a sale from me. Why?Because is specific, personal & based on my needs. You are showing me that you care about the context. You are analyzing my behavior to give me a better deal. That effort matters to potential customers.

Here’s a great example from a sports apparel customer.

They realized they had 2 types of visitors: men and women, so they used this in their targeting and showed this form.

It makes sense, because men don’t want offers designed especially for women, and viceversa. So, next time you design a subscription form and make sure you also think a lot about the copy, and put it in context, so that it makes sense for the potential client. You can use Padiact to target people based on their browsing behavior, and you can show them the right copy, at the right time.

3. Stick to the essentials & get permission, and then ask for more

The tendency for marketers is to (try to) capture as much information from the user is possible, in order to personalize the newsletter, whenever they send out a email marketing campaign. The initiative for more personalized emails is great, but you must remember that people are usually reluctant to share information with marketers. Why? Because marketers either abuse the trust or they simply forget to personalize the offers in any way. That’s why you have to be clever and have a more common sense approach when asking for personal information. First of all, to capture that lead, only ask for the essentials. If you can work only with an email address, just ask for that. Make everything else optional.

 If you need more info, follow-up with an email survey that your subscriber can fill in for a prize or a discount, an incentive can help drive better results. Once the subscriber has done that initial step, he will be more willing to give you more info, especially if he’s incentivised. Because the subscriber made that first step, he basically, gave you permission to send him marketing offers, and he wants those offers to be top notch (that means personalized).

MEGATIP & TRICK: if you are a smart marketer, like most of our clients, you can design a sequence of forms like the one bellow:

Firstly, our client asked for the email, which was essential for him, and then, in order to further segment his list, he provides the user with some options to select from, so that he can afterwards, use them for more targeted campaigns. He’s already using PadiAct to collect emails for a specific segment of his traffic, and he is very smart in going further with the segmentation.  Clever right? We love our clients.

I hope the examples we gave you based on our clients’ experiments, offered you at least the same amount of insights we got from them. Instead of preaching about design vs content, we showed you that it makes more sense to search for the middleground. Use the right amount of design, with a cleverly written copy. Don’t just stick to one solution, but A/B test a few against each other, so that you make sure you don’t miss out, just because you went with your first idea. Use PadiAct, not just because it’s easy to use and to integrate with Active Campaign, use it because it’s going to help you get targeted email leads, and that can help you drive more revenue, short-term and long-term.

 “Not enough designers are working in that vast middle ground between eye candy and usability where most of the web must be built.Jeffrey Zeldman

Your focus shouldn’t be on the eye candy, but on what drives better results for your business. So, don’t waste more time on stuff you shouldn’t, it won’t make you happy, and it won’t make your customers’ life better.

What other tips & tricks can you share with us, that are closely related to the “design vs content” debate, that can translate into better results when you choose middleground between the two?

Enjoy this post? Subscribe to be notified of future posts.

  • Pingback: Design vs Content… How About Design + Content?

  • Mow

    If you have been regularly emailing a large list of contacts that weren’t subscribed with anything more than name and email, how do you begin personalization?

  • Adam Tuttle

    Hi Mow – You could start simple and ask for it. This might sound a bit cheezy, but its the truth. With ActiveCampaign you can include a link to “Update” contact info. I would add new fields to your lists, and then send out an email asking people to update. Make it the call to action for the email by explaining you are trying to get more information to better meet your contacts needs. You most likely would not get 100% response, but you should definitely get some feedback.

Connect