To me, Web 2.0 darling 37signals has always served as a great example of a company that “gets” copywriting. They built their highly-successful business using a longer-copy format with a powerful centered headline that instantly sucked you into the page to learn more.
Earlier this week, 37signals introduced a new home page. While the text no longer scrolls as far down the page, it’s still “copy intensive.” I personally find the page to be aesthetically pleasing, so I was anxious to see what kind of testing had been done to justify changing winning copy, especially after I saw the new two-word headline:
You can see a side-by-side comparison of both the new and former home page copy here (the new is on the left).
Now, I’m not saying you can’t have an effective two-word headline. Joe Sugarman made a fortune selling gizmos and sunglasses using pithy two and three word headlines that were high on the novelty factor. But I wonder whether the new 37signals headline empirically beats the old one, which has been updated and is now the first subhead:
Over 1 million people and small businesses use our web-based applications to get things done the simple way.
It seems to me that the specificity and strong social proof of that heading would beat the pants off of “Work Well” in the lead spot. But who knows, right?
That’s what testing is for.
So I headed over to the 37signals blog to see what I could find out about the decision. No mention of metrics in the announcement post itself, but the topic came up in the comments.
From Josh Hale:
I’d be curious to know how you will evaluate the success/failure of this new design. Do you have any metrics in mind to see if it’s actually an improvement (vs. just seeming to be an improvement visually)?
Jason Fried of 37signals responds:
Josh: We don’t have metrics. It’s all gut.
Have you ever had the impulsive, irresistible urge to rearrange your living room furniture? That’s what this feels like. The old copy took them to 1 million users, and they decide to change something that was working on a whim?
Here’s Fried’s reasoning:
The goal was to tighten up the design, say more with less words, and hone our overall message.
That might tie in nicely to the 37signals mantra of “less is more,” but does the new headline really “say more with less words?” I’m not sure, and neither are they.
I still love 37signals, but two things come to mind:
- Drinking your own philosophical Kool-Aid when it comes to copywriting can be deadly to conversion.
- Going with your gut instead of empirical testing can be a conceit that allows you to do whatever you think is right, rather than facing the possibility that you’re wrong.