How Simplicity, Recognition & “The Perception of Ease” Impact Landing Page Optimization

Snare_1If there’s one landing page battle I’ve had to fight consistently with clients during my time as a strategist and consultant it is the fight for simplicity. Why don’t people like simplicity on landing pages? Here’s just a few snippets of what I’ve heard over the years:

“It makes us look unprofessional”
“It doesn’t represent our brand”
“It looks like a little kid came up with this idea”
“No one’s going to look at this and think we’re a real company.”
“Who will buy unless we tell them more about our product?”
“How much thought did you put into this?”

and my favorite…

“We though we were getting expert advice”

Yet, a funny thing happens after I beg and plead for their trust to at least test these concepts and ideas. They always perform well. In fact the more “designed” or “creative” or “informational” the page they are tested against, the better simple pages do. Lifts of 50-100% don’t surprise me in these types of tests.

My favorite story of all comes from the agency world. One creative director’s disdain for my design caused her to take my power point wireframe and convert it straight to HTML. She then sent it off to the client refusing to work on it since she was not capable of designing around simplicity. The client saw the HTML page and fired the agency from doing further design work. With no other options the page went live in its ugly and simple form for what was supposed to be a week. It had a 300% lift in conversion vs. the page that it replaced and is still live a year later. True story.

ForestthrutreesBut today is a watershed moment in my understanding of the benefits of simplicity. Until today I’ve always thought that simplicity worked because it’s an easier user experience. Meaning, practically for the user from a content consumption and absorption factor and functionally for the user on an experience and interface level. Simplicity drives users forward in fulfilling their goal. There is no doubt about this.

What happened today is that I read an interview on Boxes and Arrows with Paco Underhill. Paco’s writing and study of consumer behavior have no peer. In this fantastic interview Paco states, “we live in a world in which time is in a state of acceleration. And therefore the perception of ease is as important as the reality of ease.” This observation hit me like my first time hearing the opening snare crack on “Like a Rolling Stone.”

I immediately realized that landing page simplicity does not just help users practically and functionally. It fosters a positive intention during the critical moment of recognition. Simplicity generates a comfort level and confidence in users based on the perceived ease of the landing page before they even engage.

The “moment of recognition” is the time on a landing page between when the page loads and when the user has determined if the page is relevant. Most research has pegged this “moment” anywhere from 3-5 seconds.

What really made Paco’s comments resonate with me is that I have begun to spend more and more time thinking strategically about the “moment of recognition” and how it impacts conversion rates. Just a few weeks ago OTTO tested if reinforcing the keyword and search engine on the landing page improved conversion. The hypothesis was that by reinforcing the keyword and source an easier and faster recognition of relevance would be created that would positively impact on the user experience and ultimately conversion.

The idea for the tests came from what Kayak does from their paid search ads.


What we found testing this same concept for our client was that on some landing experiences reinforcement was helpful. As helpful as a 71% lift in revenue per visitor (RPV) on important product lists and brand pages. On more generic category pages where it was easy for users to perceive relevance upon landing there was less of an impact (though still provided modest lift versus control).

We surmised based on the page designs and layouts that as the page became more difficult for the user discern relevance, the greater positive impact the reinforcement provided. I feel strongly that the RPV lift is due to the reinforcement shrinking the moment of recognition by placing the query and source in the exact location that eye-tracking studies show users eyes hit the landing page. This keeps users in the ever important “flow” of trying to achieve their goal.

To summarize:

Perception of ease of use during the moment of recognition is a positive factor in landing page conversion

• Reinforcement of relevance during the moment of recognition is a positive factor in landing page conversion

• Actual ease of use fostered by simplicity is a positive factor in landing page conversion

Thanks Paco!


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