Occasionally Asked Questions

Interested in the premise and principles of That’s A Nice Page? Have I got a page for you. This page acts as something of a manifesto for the site, hence the philosophy sections. (For more about myself and the site—also, bafflingly, presented in question and answer format—check out the About page.)

(The design philosophy and testing philosophy sections below also outline the thinking that underpins my consulting services.)

How do you choose pages?

  • Niche That’s A Nice Page zeros in on a specific web design niche: product pages, and usually those of tech products. (Surprise! I’m a nerd.)
  • Products “Products” is very loosely defined, and can be hardware, software including SaaS apps, and may occasionally include service-based startups if they have a particularly bitchin’ marketing page.
  • Product pages “Product pages” are a marketing phenomenon that has emerged in recent years with the rise of more sophisticated web design—they’re usually panel based, lengthy, stand alone, and have some sort of call-to-action. Product pages embrace the art of telling a marketing story in one long page.
  • Page criteria Pages have to be particularly interesting (so I have something to say) and/or popular (so you have some interest in reading) to get the TANP treatment.
  • Product criteria I prefer to teardown pages of things that actually exist and provide value to a relatively mainstream audience. If the product is understandable to most readers, then I figure we’ll all be able to assess whether the page successfully communicates the product’s value or not.
  • No conflicts All reviews are unpaid, either in cash or in kind. Any offers (e.g. free trials, free samples, etc.) will be politely declined. I currently run affiliate advertising under the guise of sponsorship in the hope of convincing some poor soul to one day sponsor this project.
  • Submitting pages If you’d like to submit a page please see the details here.

What’s your approach to teardowns?

  • The ideal The TANP ideal is that by looking at the best pages of the best products hopefully we’ll learn a lot about making more efficient product pages. (See more about efficiency below.)
  • The question The fundamental question I ask when looking at a page is: Does this section of the page (including copy, design, interaction, etc) help me understand what your product is and what it does? It’s a surprisingly fruitful question.
  • Understand and explain Hopefully the answer is positive, in which case I’ll endeavor to understand and explain why that part of the page works as a piece of communication.
  • Not reviews Teardowns aren’t reviews per se—I have no insight into whether a page achieves the company’s internal goals, or whether it converts really well.
  • No one knows better Designers, marketers, and others may have battled mightily internally to get a decent product page out the door, and that’s great. Teardowns aren’t a vehicle for me to say I know better than everyone; the premise of the site is that without data and beyond a certain point of competency, no one knows better. We’ll explore this below.
  • Get you thinking Teardowns instead are intended as a means to get you thinking about better ways to communicate in your own work, with the emphasis very much on ways, plural. The pages we look at are just a vehicle for that purpose.
  • One step in a conversation Product pages are generally just one step in a conversation you’re having with a customer. They may have heard about you through the media before they hit your page; or you may continue the sales process after they’ve visited your page. Where appropriate I try and acknowledge where a product page sits in the customer conversation; how that affects copy and messaging; and what opportunities there might be to continue the conversation.

What’s your design philosophy?

  • Critical thinking I have some strong opinions on web design after a decade and a half of observation and professional practice. (Most of them stolen from Andrew Anderson.) There’s been precious little critical thought about the communication side of modern web design, and TANP exists to challenge that.
  • Design isn’t magic TANP rejects the idea that design is somehow “magic” and can’t be scrutinized, studied, deconstructed, reasoned about, or measured. This short essay is one of the best I’ve read on the topic.
  • Narrative fallacy is a trap Traditionally, part of being a designer or marketer is telling clients or bosses stories about why they should use your design. Unfortunately, we use the same technique on ourselves and convince ourselves that whatever we come up with is as pure as unicorn tears and is the One True Solution™. But narrative fallacy is a trap, and we need to disabuse ourselves of this story-telling habit post-haste. (Here’s a great post on the topic.)
  • Communication is what matters “Design is communication” is a very old cliché, but one that’s well past due for us to revisit. Web design has matured in skill (creatively vis a vis Dribbble; technically vis a vis the billion build tools out there) and we need to refocus on the result and get back to asking: What communication works?
  • Design needs testing The answer to that question lies in objective measurement, and therefore TANP exists to encourage more design (and copy) experimentation and A/B testing, however…
  • I’ll settle for understanding what your product does I’ll happily settle for just being able to understand what the heck your product is and what it actually does when I visit its product page. Achievable goals.

What’s your testing philosophy?

  • We can measure Web design is communication you can measure. Product pages are especially measurable.
  • We can test Because you can measure it, you can test it. If you can test it, you need ideas to test. TANP—and my consulting service—exists to help meet that need.
  • We can go beyond the expected If you can test it, you can look beyond solutions you think will perform best. (Which is good, because your intuition will be wrong. Often and always. I’m sorry.) The good news is that if you can test it, you have a safety net that will catch you when you take bigger creative risks.
  • We need to maximise the search area By definition the best results of a good test will be the ones you don’t expect (because you’re testing unexpected solutions), therefore you need to maximize the solution search area.
  • Testing when properly understood is a design and creativity multiplier All those silly design vs testing arguments are a nonsense. Testing should unleash far more creative work in far more directions than was previously possible.
  • Your intuition only goes so far If a designer or marketer could reliably predict what would work, they would render the entire A/B testing industry redundant overnight and make a billion dollars, but that is, shall we say… unlikely. Instead, intuition is a so-so guide for what meets a baseline of competency, and then it needs to be trained to explore and not predict.
  • Design efficiency is what matters This act of maximizing the spectrum of possibilities you test while keeping the cost of producing design variations under control is an expression of design efficiency. Design efficiency—the highest number of diverse “cards” you can play, at the lowest cost per card—is the goal you seek.
  • Let’s see things differently Because this is counter-intuitive (and therefore the majority of people simply wont get it) I want to inspire you through these teardowns to see product pages differently and open your mind to the spectrum of possibilities you could test in your own work.

How do you respond to objections to testing?

  • ‘Why’ doesn’t matter A common objection to A/B testing is that it doesn’t tell you why a variation won. Most of the time ‘why’ is irrelevant because it’s unknowable anyway, and any attempt to create a ‘why’ is just narrative fallacy. There are exceptions to the rule (e.g. you do user research, discover a major objection or technical issue, and find a solution), but even the exceptions can create a false sense of “solving” the problem, when there may be greater gains in completely different directions.
  • I am probably wrong By definition, all my suggestions in teardowns are propositions which can and will be wrong simply because there’s no One True Design™. I’ll get irrationally excited about intricate, subtle design (which is probably inefficient). I’ll succumb to narrative fallacy about particularly delightful copy. All my comments are merely testable suggestions, some of which are resource-intensive (i.e. take a long time to produce), and therefore inefficient, and some which are not.
  • I want to encourage more creative work Often people think A/B testing crimps their creativity. I believe the opposite is true. My hope is that companies are inspired to spend more money on testing various and diverse designs because it’s in their own self-interest. Hopefully this means better product pages for good products thus making the world slightly less of an unremitting nightmare.

What’s the aim of the site in a nutshell?

With all the above in mind, ultimately by tearing down product pages we’ll identify themes and conceptual approaches that will make it more efficient to test new, diverse and creative ideas on your own product pages, because you wont have to think them up from scratch. This hopefully results in you getting your product in the hands of more people.

That’s the hope, anyway.

If this kind of thinking appeals to you, and you wish you had someone to walk you through it for your product pages, you’re in luck. I’m available to hire as a consultant.