Design Update: Final decision on featured posts (for now)

Hi all, this is a follow up to my previous updates, Design Update: Confirming the new post list format and launching a new featured posts test, and Design Update: Phase 2 of Testing Featured Posts Formats. Thankfully, this one is shorter and sweeter!

The image slider wins

After following-through on the “Phase 2″ of featured posts testing, comparing the older Slider format with our latest version of the Grid format as described in the last post, we've come to our final conclusion for the time being: We will be sticking with the full-width Slider for our featured posts:

Comparison screenshots of the panoramic slider and huge grid variants, with the slider marked as "WINNER"

The two variants that were compared in the “Phase 2″ testing. Turns out the old-style carousel slider gets a lot of clicks!

Despite the fact that many of us preferred the aesthetics and experience of the static grid, over and over the Google Analytics numbers gave us reasons to stick with the old sliding design.

  • On desktop browsers, which constitute 2/3 of traffic to the homepage, the Slider version was clicked much more often than the Grid version, usually twice as often!
  • On mobile, the Grid did slightly better than the Slider, but the difference was negligible compared to the dramatic lead the Slider had on desktop, and considering that only 1/3 of homepage visits are on mobile, this is a much lower priority.
  • Matching the click rates for the two featured posts variants, the overall bounce rate and pages/session is slightly better for Slider on desktop, and slightly better for Grid on mobile.
  • Just to be safe, we extended the test to run for a total of 3.5 weeks, gathering thousands of visits to compare behavior, as well as checking shorter periods within the total to ensure the same patterns emerged.

In the end, the difference in click rates in favor of the Slider version, with twice as many clicks, is too dramatic to ignore. Clearly there is something about the slider that makes visitors want to read a story, so for now, we'll be sticking with this design.

In the future we'll continue to monitor the behavior around the featured posts, and we're very open to re-trying a similar test in the future, as the other contents of the homepage change.

Rolling out the changes

The next step for me will be to end the A/B testing on the GV English site and make the new full-width slider the norm across all our sites.

Notably, at least for Lingua sites and other GV sub-sites like Advox and Rising Voices, this will mean the removal of the widget that used to show next to the featured posts on the homepage, to make room for the full width slider:

Screenshots of the Advox homepage before and after the changes, showing how the slider is much bigger and the list of top world stories is gone

The Advox homepage before and after the switch. Notice the “Top World Stories” is simply gone.

Removing this widget was one of our main goals with this redesign, as it simplifies the layout and the code behind it. That said, we still have lots of room for custom widgets and other content, both above and below the featured posts, such as the big Unfreedom Monitor promo card visible in the screenshot above.

The goal going forward is to make intentional decisions about what widgets we promote on the homepage, rather than having hard-coded defaults like the Top World Stories widget.

To that end, I'm currently working on a new guide and accompanying video to help all site managers make the most of widgets on the homepage: WordPress Widgets and Sidebars!

To the Lingua site managers: I'll be contacting you directly with information about changes to the widgets and how they affect your sites.

What's next

Once this is all rolled out, we will be continuing our work on the homepage, working on the content below and above the featured posts. We will be playing with the idea of promoting more than just our posts on the homepage, but also Global Voices itself, finding ways to highlight our many projects and community.

Stay tuned for more updates on all that!

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