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Strava and MapMyRun are both GPS-based web and mobile tracking services for runners and cyclists.

At a glance, they have similar homepages, designed to explain the concept and coax visitors to sign up. 

The respective pages are similarly sized, with large imagery, simple text, top and bottom menus and the aim of quickly informing the user of the service proposition.

And yet, Strava is more effective. How does it do it?

In case the homepages change any time soon, below are screenshots of each as I viewed them. You can click through to visit the homepages. Take a glance and then we'll crack on.

Strava

(click to see at full size)

strava homepage

MapMyRun

(Click to see at full size)

mapmyrun homepage

1. Copywriting

Below are word clouds created with all the text on the Strava and MapMyRun homepages. 

Whilst this isn’t a scientific method as it doesn’t take account of the styling and sizing of text, I think this shows the difference in clarity and simplicity of the copywriting alone. 

Strava appears to concentrate on its brand name, mobile, running and its tagline of 'proving it'. MapMyRun has more noise and seems to be about signing up, with no other prioritised messages and perhaps an attempt to cram too much into menus on the page..

Strava homepage word cloud

strava homepage wordcloud 

MapMyRun homepage word cloud

mapmyrun homepage wordcloud 

I’ve never worked at an agency (as you can tell by the image below), but if I was going to make my own word cloud about the aims of both these homepages, it would look like this.

These are the words I'll loosely apply to the rest of the respective homepages, and see how they compare.

aims of strava and mapmyrun word cloud

A simple and genuine homepage allows a brand to effectively carry across its brand message.

I might just throw in one more word cloud here, because I was so impressed by the results when I added the words from Strava's 'about' page to the Wordle word cloud generator. I won't be discussing this 'about' page in further detail but it shows just how defined the branding is across the Strava website. Impressive stuff, focusing on community, dedication, camaraderie, performance.

sträva about page word cloud

So, enough clouding around, what about how these words are put together on the Strava and MapMyRun homepages? It's not just the frequency of words that are important (who has read Italo Calvino's 'If On a Winter's Night a Traveller'? There's a character that believes the worthiness of a book can be assessed merely by ranking words used in greatest frequency).

Here's a good example using some explanatory text given similar prominence on each website.

  • Strava: ‘Track your progress and challenge your friends.’
  • MapMyRun: ‘You pound the pavement, we provide the motivation.’

Strava is more effective here as it conveys much more with one word fewer than MapMyRun. The MapMyRun line is actually quite ambiguous, which you could say is the also case with Strava's 'track your progress'. However, the user is more likely to relate to the Strava line as she can map her own hopes and goals to it, whereas 'we provide the motivation' is about the service MapMyRun provides, not what the user wants to achieve. Placing yourself in the user's shoes is important when writing compelling copy to illustrate the benefits of a service.

'Challenge your friends' is again playing directly to the user's wants. Here's another example:

  • Strava: 'See your map, stats and personal records.’
  • MapMyRun: ‘Plan each stride and learn from every route with MapMyRun.’ 

Strava's copy is again very simple and more powerful for it. What it conveys is that the service will provide you with lots of data, and all you have to do is run (or cycle).

MapMyRun uses the word 'plan'. The user doesn't want to plan, she wants to run and let a service take care of everything else. Even if she needs to plan, this aspect needs to be described as more of a benefit, e.g. 'discover the best routes and track your progress'.

We'll look at more examples of copywriting a bit later.

2. Call to action

Such a simple point, but note the obvious difference here. 

MapMyRun: ‘Sign up with Facebook’, ‘Sign up with email’.

sign up with Facebook, signup with email

Strava: ‘Sign up for free’.

sign up for free 

Yep, both services are freemium but only Strava realises that ‘free’ is a massive incentive when attracting users who may be dipping a toe in the water.

Although MapMyRun has bigger CTAs, this may have the effect of scaring the user off, whereas Strava practices the softer signup. 

The sign-up pages, when you get to them, are remarkably similar, but I’d posit that Strava’s call to action is clicked by a higher proportion of first time visitors.

(N.B. Here are some tips on ecommerce calls to action)

3. Effective visualisation.

Look at this extreme simplification of how Strava works, taken from its homepage.

(Click to see full size)

how strava works

On the MayMyRun homepage there is no simplified ‘How it works’ section, just a rather laborious, text-heavy listing of features and a slightly ambiguous bit of copywriting, both shown below. The features are good, and should be made more of in the larger copy further up the page.

Note, despite this copywriting being poor at quickly and simply explaining the service, it is one of the few areas where the service is described as free.

make every mile count, join free today

(click to see full size) 

mapmyrun features 

Strava does this tagline copy better, too. Which leads us to..

3. Slideshow and repetition 

A slideshow or carousel can be very effective for driving home a message. Strava uses its homepage slideshow for variations on its theme of ‘proof’ (prove it, prove your story, prove your efforts, prove to others and prove to yourself).

Each slide includes a brief piece of copy design to inspire and motivate users. There’s always a call to action of ‘Sign up for free’.

MapMyRun has a static homepage that doesn’t effectively mirror the dynamism of the cyclists and runners that will be landing on the page.

4. ‘Real’ imagery 

Check out that shot again, above. You can click to see the full size version. The lady on the bike looks real.

Here’s the image on the MapMyRun homepage, below. Not even breaking a sweat, obviously a catalogue style shoot. Users will not respond emotionally to this fakery. Maybe it is a real image, but the way it’s lit looks more ethereal than gritty and determined.

mapmyrun homepage image

5. Big clickable images

On the picure above showing MapMyRun's lsit of features, the user can only click some anchor text. Below you can see some links away to other parts of the Strava site and experience. The entire images are clickable here, which is more intuitive for the user.

sträva clickable images 

6. Responsive

OK, both these services have apps, but as mobile first services, their websites should ideally be responsively designed. Strava's is and MapMyRun's isn't.

7. White space and clearer text

I've talked about white space in email templates before. I think it's underused in web design. It sets the Strava homepage apart as cleaner and crisper than MapMyRun. Crisp like a morning run.

And black text works a lot better on a white background than dark grey on light grey.

If you disagree, or have any further thoughts, let me know. When it comes to conversion rate optimisation, of course, all the above must be tested, but I thought I'd tell it like I see it, and see if you agree.

Ben Davis

Published 23 April, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (6)

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Carmen

Good post. At a glance both the pages look as good as each other (to my eyes). But then when you dig down like that you can really see the differences. Great evaluation.

over 2 years ago

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Henri

This is just one big opinion piece with absolutely no data to back it up. The author is just grappling in the dark to try and explain why one site performs better than the other. He may or may not be right but we'll never know.

For e.g. #2 CTA. MapMyRun says Free in huge letters which I read quite easily. Strava has it in small font within the button which I missed. So in my opinion, MayMyRun does it better. We'll never know.

"Although MapMyRun has bigger CTAs, this may have the effect of scaring the user off." Who has ever been scared of a big button?

Or #4 - Will users analyse the woman in the picture to see in she is really sweating it?

And comparing the taglines/explanatory text, that's pure speculation and purely the opinion of the author with the added knowledge that one site performs better than the other -it may or may not be because of the text.

over 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Henri

Yep, as I say at the end of the piece:

'When it comes to conversion rate optimisation, of course, all the above must be tested, but I thought I'd tell it like I see it, and see if you agree.'

As I don't use either service, I was trying to look at both from a new user's perspective.

over 2 years ago

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David Potts

Hi,

Really enjoyed this article - not least because it highlights the need for effective copywriting as part of the design. Too often the words used are something of an afterthought, seen as less important than startling imagery and graphics or whizzy clever functionality.

Using a word cloud to highlight the most used words is a great idea. It immediately brings to life where the focus is.

Regards

David.

over 2 years ago

Joe Hawkes

Joe Hawkes, Senior Digital Marketing Executive at Charles Russell Speechlys

Despite the conjecture, I agree with just about every observation here.

I've used both apps and find strava's interface, both on the app and online, to be clearer, simpler and more effective (and slightly addictive!).

over 2 years ago

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William Bicknell

I enjoyed this article as although it does not give any definitive answers it asks the right questions that should then be tested.

You state that Strava is more effective, this is slightly woolly (technical term) do you mean there is a higher conversion rate of people clicking the button to sign up from that page or overall Strava converts more browsers to signups?

This tells only part of the story as I would expect quite a large % of browsers will click through to other parts of the site before signing up and this will have an effect on the conversion rates.

Also how do people arrive at the sites in the first place?, if - as in my case - a trusted friend has told me he uses Strava and is really impressed then I might ignore everything on the page and just click to sign up, this is the power of the brand over the usability or emotional design on the page.

In reverse when I go to maymyrun I can see which of my Facebook friends use it which is pretty persuasive and I might even ask them what they think of it before signing up, taking me away from the site / delaying my sign up and perhaps damaging conversion?

So I think really you are not comparing like with like, however I think your observations are valid and it would be interesting to see the results of a multivariate test on them.

over 2 years ago

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