How Simplification Saved Our Website Redesign and Increased Conversions by 4x [Case Study]

by Chris Kilbourn

Last updated on November 17th, 2017

Giving customers more options doesn’t always lead to better conversions.

In fact, it can kill off your website altogether. That’s what nearly happened when Fit Marketing redesigned the Underwater Audio website.


Deciding to Redesign

First, a bit of background.

Underwater Audio provides water proof iPods, headphones and other swimming accessories.

With recent changes in how customers are accessing information (and to take advantage of the mobile trend in particular) we decided it was time to give the website a fresh look and feel. The old website had experienced great conversions and we weren’t expecting any change with the new update.

The Control – Redesign #1

Control Save The Website Test

The first iteration of the new website featured currency, payment, contact information and shopping cart links and icons at the very top with the latest offer sitting just above the navigation bar.

There was then an attractive image highlighting Underwater Audio’s free shipping offer followed by a white space, containing four current products and detailed descriptions of two of the company’s best lines. Key client logos sat below this, with the dark blue footer beneath.

It looked great, but it was a disaster.

From day one, we experienced a significant drop in conversion rates with a resulting impact on sales. Panic stations!

You might think switching back to the old website—which had been converting well—was the obvious move, but we didn’t do the obvious.

Underwater Audio had already invested heavily in this new website so we decided to dig deeper into the reason for the poor conversion rate. That’s why Fit ran a series of quick A/B tests to see whether we could save the new website.

Choosing the Tool – Visual Website Optimizer

The tool we chose to do our testing was Visual Website Optimizer (VWO). We selected VWO because it was easy to use, allowing point-and-click creation of website variations.

Everybody on the team immediately fell in love with it because it is so easy to use. It also means we no longer have to splash out on expensive web developers in order to identify and resolve website issues. Instead, we can do it ourselves.


The First Test

One of the features on both the old website and on the revamped website was the use of star ratings for products. But our test showed that removing these resulted in better conversions.

This goes against the conventional wisdom that social proof is always necessary to improve conversions. It certainly wasn’t working for the Underwater Audio site, despite the huge popularity of their products.

Admittedly, the test was not statistically significant, but it did point us in the direction that we needed to go in order to see big changes and retain the new website.

The Second Test – Simplification

We wondered whether removing other elements from the page would result in a similar uptick in conversion rates, so we ran another VWO test, making more radical changes to the page design.

We made it much simpler by removing the detailed product information and images, resulting in a more compact home page, with four alternating white and blue bands.

  • The first band had payment, offer and navigation information.
  • The second band had an image and free shipping offer.
  • The third band featured four key products with an image, tagline price and add-to-cart button, along with the option to view all products with a button click. It also included some top clients.
  • The final band was the footer.

Variation Save The Website Test

It only took minutes to create this simpler homepage with VWO, and we were then able to show it to half our customers, with the other customers seeing the original redesign.

Test Results

The results were astounding.

On the new, simpler home page, the conversion rate improved by 261% or 3.6x and there was also a dramatic lift in sales.

Customers seem to like the simpler interface, and have also responded well to new services (custom engraving and giftwrapping for the company’s products) and new sitewide features (the integration of social buttons).

Of course, it’s difficult to be sure of the results of a split test with any certainty, but there is no doubt in our minds that simplification of the options on the website saved it, prevented the company from having to go back to the drawing board for another costly redesign.

Why Simplification Worked

So why did the simpler home page convert so well?

Here’s what we think…

Having more options isn’t always best for customers. Kissmetrics has cited a number of studies showing that reducing the number of options might result in better conversions.

Our VWO test on the Underwater Audio home page seems to support that. The streamlined website design enabled customers to have just a few things to think about and made it easier for them to make choices, boosting conversions.

Next Steps

The results of this A/B test have been so useful that we have been using VWO to make additional tweaks and improvements to Underwater Audio’s product and information pages. As for the home page, now that it’s converting well, we don’t plan to mess with it for a while.

photo credit: Hey Paul Studios



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Chris Kilbourn

Chris Kilbourn is a content strategist at Qzzr, an online quiz tool that allows you to create quizzes and post them anywhere. In past lives, he was a professional rock star (seriously), and he built and sold 2 successful companies from the ground up. You can connect with him via email at


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  1. D Thomas says:
    March 3, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Thanks for posting, I’ve always been a great advocate of clean, simple design as it just works and I agree wholeheartedly and those results are very impressive!

  2. Robin says:
    January 1, 2014 at 6:12 am

    I totally agree. This is where FLAT DESIGN will be so critical. Advanatages being simple to develop and going responsive, easy on eye.
    But using CTAs on website will be good idea for conversions too.
    Overall good article Chris.

  3. Kyle Gray says:
    December 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Great Article!

    I have found that simplification, and removing content from the homepage can be a tough sell sometimes, but I have seen it pay off lately.

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      December 23, 2013 at 10:29 am

      Thanks, Kyle!
      Simplification can be a fantastic way to improve the performance of a page.
      It’s interesting to see how it can also decrease the performance too. It just depends, which is why CRO is so exciting 😉


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