“Making Websites Win” book review

Written by: Erin Weigel

In case you haven’t heard, I’m writing a book about conversion design.

To make it useful, I’m reading books on CRO, Experimentation, & Data-informed design to see what gaps I can fill based on what's out there. The first one I read was, “Making Websites Win” by Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson.

It’s a self-published classic that came out in 2017. A fun fact about the book is that they initially signed to publish with Wiley. But for various reasons, they chose to do it themselves instead! Inspiring, huh?

Photo of "Making Websites Win" By Dr. Karl Blanks & Ben Jesson
"Making Websites Win" by Dr. Karl Blanks & Ben Jesson is a recent book I've read.

From reading reviews, you might get the impression this book is mainly for marketers. But don’t be fooled—it’s also super useful for CRO professionals, product people, and designers.

So, wanna know how it was?
Let's go...

The book is great because...

1. It’s written by great designers.

The title, subtitle, and cover design all shout, “Read me first!”

Why? Because the title is concise and speaks to the value you get from reading the book. The subtitle makes a promise that the book delivers on. And both the title and subtitle are highly legible on the Amazon thumbnail image. To seal the deal, they show credibility as founders of "Conversion Rate Experts.

That said, the whole book—not just the first impression—is cleverly designed. And I’m 100% certain they worked very hard to get it that way.

2. It’s got an accessible writing style.

This book emphasizes the importance of good writing. 

Good writing is so important because it keeps your readers engaged, and it can widen your audience. How? Well, when you write for a basic reading level, your content is more accessible for people with neuro-diversity. As an added bonus, it’s also easier for non-native English folks, too. 

But writing in clear, simple language is way harder than it seems. It takes practice, feedback, and humility. That said, I can tell they used the Hemingway App to practice what they preach. 

A screenshot of the Heminway App
The Hemingway App improves writing by highlighting complex sentences and other common writing issues.

What's the Hemingway app?

It’s an online tool that improves writing. 

I, personally, was thrilled to see they suggest this app. I use it weekly and think it's awesome. 

Never used it before? You definitely should.
Check out the Hemingway app here. 

3. The content is very skimmable.

Like all good designers, they break up text to reduce cognitive load. 

This book has lots of skimmable titles, subtitles, and front-loaded bulleted lists. This approach helps people not only quickly understand the content, but also re-find stuff later. 

And trust me—you’re gonna wanna dig back in regularly. 

4. It uses bold type strategically.

Bold type is a highly legible, effective way to emphasize text. 

Because of how they use it, you can easily skim to find the main point of each page since it’s emphasized. 

This is brilliant because it shows the authors know how people read, remember, and reference information. This detail reiterates to me that they know what they’re doing, and that they care about the reader experience. 

5. It's got high-quality, illustrative wireframes.

Some books in this genre use pixelated, cluttered screenshots.

But the wireframes in this book are clear and illustrative. This focuses reader attention, which is useful for learning. This inspires me to make the images in my book accessible, simple, and easy-to-reference.

The only thing missing from the images are captions.
It would be nice to have a line of text under each image, so readers know what the image refers to.

Making Websites Win book detail photo showing example wireframes.
The graphics in "Making Websites Win" are high-quality, clear, and easy-to-follow.

6. The content is super useful.

The book is most well-known for introducing the “DiPS” formula.

It's a useful approach to generate meaningful experiment ideas.

DiPS stands for: Diagnose > Problem > Solution. 

But the book is more than a theoretical model. It also gets hands-on about how to...

  • Diagnose problems,
  • Define problem statements, and finally
  • Solve the problems you find.
DiPS Formula by Conversion Rate Experts: Diagnose, Problem, Solution
This DiPS Formula was coined by Conversion Rate Experts.

In addition to the DiPS formula, the book provides proven, practical concepts that increase can conversion.

Some useful topics it covers are...

  • Qualitative and quantitative data analysis,
  • Research techniques,
  • Common abandonment causes,
  • Usability basics, and
  • Useful design patterns and concepts.

The case study at the end drives home the process in a practical way. Readers can see how it all fits together and imagine how they can do it, too. 

Now, nothing in life is perfect. So…

Content gaps I can fill...

1. Complex applications, post-purchase experience, and native apps.

This book only covers sales funnels for web products.
However, the content is pure gold, and the approach is equally relevant to:

  • Complex application design,
  • Post-purchase customer experience, and
  • Native mobile apps.

Perhaps it was just a matter of scope, expertise, and time. But I’d love to hear the authors' thoughts on how to apply this methodology to alternative types of products and user journeys, too.

Why I can fill this gap...

I spent many years using similar techniques to improve a complex B2B application. Mobile apps optimization and post-purchase customer experience are also things I've optimized with testing. 

In my book, I’ll dive deep not only into web examples—but also into native apps and utility design. 

Another gap I could fill...

That said, I’ve also used conversion design techniques on design systems. Is this a topic y'all are interested in?

Or, is that too niche? Let me know by saying hi!

And finally, the second gap I noticed in this book is to provide...

2. Even more design examples and inspiration.

The imagery in Making Websites Win was my favorite part of the book.
So I'll dive deep into conceptual images and wireframe examples in my book. And I'll sprinkle in related practical case studies along the way. 

There you have it!

"Making Websites Win" is definitely worth a read.

Go get a paper copy from the authors' website, Conversion Rate Experts.
Or, you can get it as a FREE ebook simply by signing up for their extremely useful email list.

Happy reading!

Hypothesis template: Based on (data, observation, research), we believe that (insert customer problem here). Because of this (insert consequence of customer problem). If we (insert solution here), then (insert anticipated impact of solution here). We will know this is true when we see (insert metric and expected impact on that metric).

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Erin Weigel working at her desk on a computer surrounded by her plants.

Be kind & make things better

Hi, I'm Erin Weigel, and these are the words I live by.
I deliver impactful, user-centric products and tell stories about how I do it.

Erin Weigel working at her desk on a computer surrounded by her plants.

Be kind & make things better

Hi, I'm Erin Weigel, and these are the words I live by.

I deliver impactful, user-centric products and tell stories about how I do it.

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