User Testing and Thirteen Ways of Selling a Book

3 mins read

It is commonly known that user testing (and evalutation) should start throughout the early stages of development of a website. It is cost-effective when these tests are conducted in the right point of development but that doesn’t mean you should stop testing once the website goes online.

I wrote an article (Fading navigation on the Google homepage) about this before, using the Google homepage as an example. Google is constantly testing the usability of their website, this to insure that the interface is optimized for the most important and frequent tasks.

Usability test on e-commerce websites

E-commerce websites surely benefit from testing continiously because it can lead to an increase of revenue. Amazon’s annual revenue sky-rocketed by $300 Million by tweaking the buttons of their checkout form (read the article). This small change had a huge impact for the entire checkout where visitors experienced a much easier and user-friendlier buying process. You can imagine that these changes didn’t happen overnight, on the contrary, it took a lot of efford, time and money. By conducting usability tests, the researchers discovered the problem and step by step they came up with a good solution.

Smashing Magazine

A while ago I was going through the articles of Smashing Magazine and I came across a nice and simple example of A/B testing. The idea of A/B testing is rather simple, banner A is shown to 50% of your visitors and banner B (a variation of A) is shown to the other 50%. This gives you the possibility to research the conversion rate of each banner separately. In our example of Smashing Magazine, I’ve found not 2 but 13 variations of a banner which promotes their book. Although 13 different versions seem to be a lot, it is a common practice.

Smashing Magazine: banner example 1

mentioning the price and a big blue call-to-action button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 2

An obvious blue link


Smashing Magazine: banner example 3

bold font a an orange coloured button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 4

mentioning the price and a big blue button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 5

the price is mentioned in a red colour and a clear blue button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 6

A big and orange coloured button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 7

the price is mentioned and using a dark-blue button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 8

mentioning the price and an orange button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 9

price is shown with a yellow button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 10

a big blue link should do the trick


Smashing Magazine: banner example 11

bold font and a big orange button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 12

a bigger version of the banner, shown inside an article... mentioning the price, a clear blue link a big blue button


Smashing Magazine: banner example 13

A variation of the previous one


Smashing Magazine is not using the typical A/B testing method (showing only one banner to a visitor), instead they are showing all 13 banners randomly to all visitors and that is not a bad idea. By variating colours, dimensions, images, price tags, … all the banners seem to have a different topic and therefore people keep reading the message (or at least quickly scan it). I believe this is a nice solutions against ad-blindness and a way to keep the design fresh.

All these banners were found on the website of Smashing Magazine itself, but I also found an example of an offsite banner on the website of Six Revisions. I pretty much guess that SM will only have a few formats, if someone can find some other examples, I’ll be more than happy to receive an email from you!


offsite banner on Six Revisions

offsite banner on Six Revisions

Just a little side-note: this article is not intended to promote the Smashing Magazine Book, although I’ve read some good reviews about it.

Conduct your own tests

If you’re interested in conducting your own A/B testing and you’re using WordPress for CMS, I can highly recommend the video of Ryan Carson on Treehouse. Using Google’s Website Optimizer, Ryan explains step by step how to conduct a simple test.


Related Articles

I'm the creator and editor of, a blog about on Web Design, User Experience and Usability. Currently I'm working as UX Lead for Home24, a leading online shop for furniture and home accessories, based in Berlin, Germany. Follow me @paulolyslager or google+.

3 responses to “User Testing and Thirteen Ways of Selling a Book”

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and rel="nofollow" is in use. So, please do not use a spammy keyword or else it will be deleted. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation instead. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Pingback:

  • Great example and explanation. Your depiction of so many graphic variables gives readers an excellent glimpse into how to be more, or less, attention getting.

  • @Mari: Hi Mari, nice to hear that you enjoyed the article!

Popular UX books

A Project Guide to UX Design - By Carolyn Chandler
Don't make me think - By Steve KrugPopular book
Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences - By Stephen P.Anderson
The UX Book: Process and Guidelines for Ensuring a Quality User Experience - by Pardha S. PylaPopular book
Undercover User Experience Design - By Cennydd bowles and James Box
Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design - By Giles Colborne