Why does it have to be so … um … ugly?

A common question we hear is, why do fundraising pages / emails / sites / mail look so ugly?

There’s a simple answer, but it’s hard for design-oriented folks to understand, it’s designed that way because people give to things designed like that. Fundraising is both art and science – the science side is a lot of testing. Everything is constantly tested and re-tested in giving campaigns. Some things make sense – if you change a few words in the title, what kind of response will it receive? In the digital fundraising space, it’s cheap and simple to test multiple things such as:

  • Words you use
  • Font & font size
  • Button color
  • Position and size of photos
  • Call to action words (Give Now versus Donate versus Support versus Change a Life)
  • Page layout
  • What words are in bold

To some, the end result may be ugly. Seth Godin writes about this in a recent blog post:

…the worldview of people who are likely to sign up, ‘like’, share, click, act and generally take action instantly is not the same worldview of people that convert into long-term, loyal customers over time.

Unattractive high-response sites aren’t usually the result of a lack of taste or talent on the part of the designer, they’re optimized for one worldview.

The design that you and I might see as non-beautiful is in fact a signal to one group of people just as much as it is a turn off to the other group. My argument is that you can optimize for one group or the other, but you can’t likely optimize for both.

It validates the old saying: there’s no accounting for taste. What you see as ugly other people people like and respond to. What you see as ugly doesn’t fit your worldview and you’re not likely to give to that.

On the Subject of Testing

We recently ran a landing page test using an ebook to gather email leads. We are testing five different variants and by changing the title from

Free Family Devotions eBook

to

Free 40-Day Devotional

We saw a 34% increase in conversions with a confidence level of 99.9999999%. I would have guessed that the family devotions title would have performed better with the audience we are targeting, but this proves there’s no substitute for testing.

Test, test, test. Don’t worry if it’s ugly if it’s performing.

 

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