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Unexpected career advice from A/B testing: “don’t ask too many questions”

Posted in A/B Split Testing, Case Studies on January 16th, 2013

I recently came across an article at Askmen.com titled “Habits Bosses Hate“. The author insists that one of the habits that makes one a pain to work with is “You ask too many questions“. That was a shock. I’ve always heard the career gurus saying that one should be inquisitive and always be questioning. So how can asking questions be a bad thing?

Are there any questions?

While I’m sure said gurus and people who give famous quotes have their own reasons for promoting a culture of questioning, the truth about professional life is that no one likes being asked too many questions. To quote from the AskMen article:

Asking too many questions, especially too many stupid questions, is among the habits bosses hate and can quickly become aggravating.

To begin, they are a fundamental waste of the boss’ time and an emblem of inefficiency. They also reflect very poorly on you, your intelligence and on the perceptions others will develop about you. A manager will think twice before assigning you an important job, remembering how the last time you practically needed someone to hold your hand all the way through.

The bottom line is that bosses value employees who are resourceful enough to figure some things out on their own.

Please keep the highlighted words in the above paragraph in mind, because I’m going to show you they are fundamental to increasing your conversions.

Real Life Case Study

Flying Scot Parking Logo

Flying Scot Parking operates car parks in Edinburgh. They handed over the A/B testing duties for their website to Attacat Internet Marketing. When Attacat saw the “Details” page of the booking process, they immediately knew they had a problem, and an opportunity.

Flying Scot Parking Form – ControlFlying Scot Booking Page - Control

They created a variation that removed all unnecessary form fields.

Flying Scot Parking Form – VariationFlying Scot Form - Variation Page

The Result

45.45% increase in visitors moving to the next step and 35% increase in form submissions. The test was statistically significant at 99% confidence.

Now coming back to our original analogy, I’m sure it’s obvious to you that sometimes, you must not ask too many questions. Taking the two phrases I highlighted earlier, let’s apply them to a web scenario:

  1. Stupid Questions: Forms should never make the customer wonder why all this information is needed. For them, an unnecessary question is a stupid question.
  2. Waste of the boss’ time: Who’s the boss? The customer of course. Large forms with irrelevant questions means the customer’s time is being wasted when he/she is in line to give business, and that’s a certain conversion killer.

Therefore, fellow testers, let’s start asking lesser questions.

Additional Reading

Here are some links that make for good reading on form lengths.

In other news

WhichTestWon have announced their 4th Annual Web Testing Awards and are currently accepting entries. They are looking for tests that were run anytime after January, 1 2012. Other than that the only other requirements are that the test was conclusive and that you can share the test creative with them. The entry deadline is Friday, January 25, 2013.

If you have any good tests, do participate as it’s a brilliant opportunity to present in front of thousands of interested optimization specialists.

Siddharth Deswal

I do marketing at Visual Website Optimizer.

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1 Comment
Carl Juneau
January 16, 2013

I see so many pages like that online… It’s like they’re crying out for optimization.

Tom Phillips
September 18, 2013

I like the parking form example improvement. When there is a high volume of forms completed (or attempted) then I can see the difference it can make.

Where I struggle is for business to business enquiries where maybe one completed form a day is a good result. Leaving out some information or making it optional rather than mandatory sometimes seems to reduce the quality of the leads.

Will take another look at some of my own forms.

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