One of the incredible benefits of the Internet is our ability to test and refine website design and gather usage metrics. In the print world, testing different layouts and determining whether they really yielded different behavior was expensive, and it was difficult to correlate behavior against comments. But online, it’s becoming commonplace for organizations to employ A/B or multivariate testing to see how different designs affect usage, and The New York Times is no exception.
I wasn’t surprised to notice The Times testing two different layouts: with and without images “below the fold” — no doubt an effort to see whether a teaser image would encourage higher clicks from the homepage. (After all, more clicks means more advertising inventory)
Here’s the “control” design:
And here’s the “B” test:
How will we know the “winner?” Just wait a few weeks, and if you don’t see any change to the homepage, it’s likely images didn’t increase click through.
The A/B test is fantastic because it’s a pure collection of user interaction. As photographers, we are inclined to believe that pictures can help sell a story better, and we know this to be anecdotally true from the print world.
Will the same hold true online? What do you think will happen?