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The A/B Split Test Prize, Which of These Won? Simple Images or Fancy Icons

December 13, 2022

Last March, I asked, “Will it Float” to encourage you to consider A/B Split testing for your website. Split testing is terrific in theory, but how does it pay off in the real world?

If you are unfamiliar with split testing, here is the basic concept. You select an element on your website (or several) and send a fraction of your website visitors to the variation or the original design. Then you measure the results to see if any metrics improve. You can measure many things, like engagement, time on site, and even conversions. 

Here is a quick practical example of how this played out recently with a client. We had built them a brand-new website with animated icons everywhere. The kind that moves as you scroll, bringing interaction and interest to the screen. Super cool, right? We thought so, and so did they – the site launched with a suite of custom animated icons. 

But we wanted to test our assumption of how rad these icons were; would they hold up to testing? To run this test, we picked images of people to replace every icon with on a page that was heavy with them. We would replace each icon with an alternate photo of people that fit its content. 

The results were stunning.

The image-based alternate ended up with a conversion rate of 13.48% vs. 8.37% for the original! That was a pretty clear trend, but as web designers with our science experiment hats on, we wanted to confirm. So we picked another page with many icons and swapped them out for images with people again. Experiment two had similar results – the variant had a conversion rate of 44.79% vs. 31.32% for our original page. 

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The results spoke for themselves. We promptly replaced all the icons on the website with images of people. Does this mean you should also avoid icons and only use photos of people? Maybe. The beautiful thing about testing is that you can run it for your website and audience. 

Our aforementioned split-testing client is a very personal product/service experience where customers want to see themselves as changing their lives for the better alongside their family and loved ones. While everyone wants to convey that, your technology startup may not benefit from the same optics as our other client. Maybe animated icons send the message your audience desires – you are cutting-edge and modern. 

The point is, you can test your website too! What works for one audience will not work for all of them, even if the results are fascinating to look at and share. 

In the end, consider running your split tests if you are struggling to optimize your website or find yourself in gridlocked committee meetings about what design will work to convert visitors into customers. If you don’t know where to start, reach out here, we would love to help!

Split-testing is a great way to hone your website messaging and design and optimize conversions. 

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