Web Designing for High Conversion Rates

Designing a web page that's great at conversion isn't the same as designing a brochure or magazine advert... and it's a trap that many smart people fall victim to. You may have been a willing accomplice in your own undoing!

You're a savvy entrepreneur and recognize that you need to have a great team around you to fast track your goals. It makes sense that you'd seek out an award winning creative team or designer to create a slick cool look for your online venture. The problem is that creative geniuses are about new, cutting edge, wow; all absolutely essential for brand building.

The trouble is that in the world of money and sales, it's all a bit more basic. You're ideal end goal is a sale with a lifetime of more sales to follow and in order to get that sale you've got to know who's interested which means gathering leads, finding prospects; in short building a list.

This means every aspect of your web design needs to be focused on having the most efficient and compelling sign-up or registration process possible for your target market.

To understand where design can let you down, let's first start with the design practices that are doing you the most conversion damage.

Design that Kills Conversion

Visual assault is primarily responsible for poor conversion. This is where the designer has exceeded all expectations to create something that screams and demands the visitor's attention. It is an attack on the senses intended to challenge the visitor and dares them to think that what there are seeing is 'uncool'.

Here is a short list of the most common web design no-no’s:

1. Crazy background colors

Cinema junkie type designers love to use dark and brooding background colors to create sense of the dramatic. A fantastic concept for a brand campaign though not necessarily so great at making people feel comfortable about trusting you or giving you their money.

Fully-saturated bright colors (electric blue, fluorescent green, bright yellow, etc) are another design tactic that works well in magazines and translates badly to the screen. These types of colors are so mesmerizing to the human eye that it can be difficult to shift your gaze away from this color to look at other things on a page. Better to use them for your call to action links and buttons, than the background color. Also, too much of these colors, or large areas of these colors on a page can actually cause physical discomfort for some people.

2. Over done headlines

Sometimes less is definitely more! Going overboard on the size of your headline text by making it so large that it becomes a disjointed string of words is destroying the impact of your pitch. It's the equivalent of using a megaphone to talk to someone who is sitting on the sofa next to you!

Clashing high-contrast colors between your headline title and the background page color is not only ugly it's hard to read (unless you already know what the words say). The other extreme is having too few shades of difference between your background page color and headline (this applies to the headline, titles and all other text on the page). As cool and groovy as this may look, it’s a killer for people to read on a screen… And not all screens are the same! What you see on your computer screen, compared to how it looks on your mobile phone, versus how it looks on a laptop will likely be quite different, and we’re not even talking about differences in the quality of the monitors, the color cards in your computer or any of the hundreds of other variations that can make something that looks fantastic look like vomit on another.

3. The wrong images

Even simple photographic images can be a turn off if you haven't first tested them to see whether they work for your target market. What you or your designer decide on as representations of particular emotions can be totally off the mark for your target audience, so test, test, test. With photos you also need to check what else is going on in the background of the photo; is there something oddly positioned, have you accidentally captured someone else's product or brand in the photo or is it just hard to work out what it's a photo of? The main reason for using images and photos is so they increase understanding and desire, so test to make sure that that's what they do before you buy.

4. Uncontrollable animation or video

The aggressive use of animation or video in your design is a big no-no. With the arrival of 'Flash' many designers went nuts, over designing with moving menus, pulsating text, revolving or rotating logos, slideshows that use wildly dramatic fly-in transition effects, animated buttons to draw the eye, and full-motion video that automatically begins playing as soon as you open the web page. None of which the overwhelmed visitor could stop or switch off. These attention-grabbing tactics are very powerful, so their misuse is highly damaging to your business goals to sell and make money. Again, less is more.

5. Being All Things to All People

Even the most able multi-tasker likes it when you get straight to the one and only one point as quickly as possible. When you give people too many things to choose from the most common result is that they choose nothing. That's exactly what is going on when you have too many 'calls to action' on a page in a big jumble of content, images, links, buttons, banners, videos, podcasts and sign-up forms. Take a long hard look at who your target market is, what they value and then get the right 'call to action' in front of them as soon as you can. Avoid confusing them by being overly eager and helpful with access to everything all in one view, it's simply not helpful, no matter how pretty you've made it look.

Design for Conversion Best Practices

Now that you’ve some idea about what does the damage, here are some tips on what your web design needs to be doing instead.

Let's imagine you’ve just realized that you're the victim of a few of the design no-no’s listed above - It's not too late to change.

Luckily, you're not talking about something carved in stone in an Egyptian pyramid and you're definitely not doomed to languish in low conversion rate hell forever. Web design is easy to change and you can recover pretty much instantly to turn it around.

1. Have a Clear Readable Headline

Every single web page you have, whether it's part of your website or a stand alone page, like a squeeze page, must have a headline that stands out (is larger than the rest of the page text without being too big, so you can still read it as a complete thought/statement).

Ideally your headline will spell out the purpose for the web page (whether it's to educate, sell or entertain) in a way that can be easily read. So forget about the fancy fonts and clever design effects, instead help your visitor recognize that you have what they want by getting straight to the point with an easy to read headline.

2. Keep the Context

Your visitor didn't materialize out of thin air, they came from somewhere. This could have been another page on your website, from a search engine, a link on someone else's website, or a banner advertisement, irrespective of where your visitor has come from they have already got in their mind that your page is going to fulfill some need that they have. Wherever possible you want to be matching your visitor's expectation with what you actually give them on the web page. For example, if the page is the destination reached after clicking on an advertisement, then make sure the headline matches or at least ties in with your advert copy. At a minimum give your visitor clear information trails to follow so that they can gauge whether they are making progress towards their ultimate goal. You do this with menus, breadcrumbs, a consistent look and feel (brand) and language (message).

3. Blindingly Obvious Call to Action

There must be a quickly and easily identifiable place on your page that the visitor is drawn to look at that contains your Call to Action. This area must be the focus of all your web design ingenuity; it must grab attention and make absolutely clear what the next step is for the visitor.

A designer who is practiced in the art of designing for conversion will also put in subtle unconscious pointers that draw the visitors eye to the Call to Action area. Doing things such as having the eyes of people in photographs looking in it's direction, having barely perceptible graphic images, such as arrows sitting underneath text that points to the area as well as formatting the page text so that it forms arrows that point to it.

4. Slim Down on Your Data Collection

The perfectionists in the Marketing department will insist that you have to collect every tiny intimate detail about your visitor as soon as you can. Of course, when you're on the other end of this scenario you're probably like 80% of online users who blatantly lie, provide false information, make up whimsy or just type in random characters.

The point being that if you really want to serve your prospects, leads and customers better, then only ask for the data you really need to make the transaction happen, when you need it. I'll exaggerate for effect here... I’ve got a squeeze page with an opt-in form and when people sign-up they get a PDF report emailed to them, but in my opt-in form I'm asking for the visitors credit card number (after all they’re sure to become customers once they read my report!). It's a pretty silly example and you'd never do it, but you might ask for a phone number or street address. When all you're delivering is a PDF report that's emailed to the visitor, even a phone number or street address is going to cause suspicion so just get what you need. Then build the relationship through email and collect the extra details along the way using surveys or direct mail offers etc.. This will keep the design of your forms simpler and make it much easier for visitors to comply with the Call to Action... after all its just three or four fields to fill in when you keep it to the essentials.

5. Provide Proof of Your Trustworthiness

A thoughtful, clean and intuitive design is what you need to garner trust when visitors haven't yet experienced the wonderful customer service your business provides.

This is something that the folks at Apple do cleverly well. It was entirely by design that the first iPods where white rather than black, silver, or gray. This sort of attention to details and understanding what creates trust and desire is what's needed in your web design too.

Trust is communicated in so many different ways, through design (Consider two motorcars, one that's a 4-wheel drive and another that's an hatchback city car. The design of these two cars is very different, yet in your own mind you will easily decide which of these is safest based on how you have visualized them in your mind), through social proof (People that we like and are like are much easier to trust than strangers, so proof of your trustworthiness from people who are also like us is required to help us trust strangers), through trusted authorities (Being able to buy your book through Amazon.com gives you higher status than if it's only available for sale through your website or as a mail order) and recognized agencies (Government, semi-government and long established businesses have a perceived built-in safety net so that when they vouch for you, you are perceived to be low risk and afforded trust).

Your web design should consider each of these aspects to trust – design, social proof, trusted authorities and recognized agencies.

6. Edit and Remove Clutter

When you look at the proposed design, segment the design into small chunks and ask yourself "Does this help the visitor take the desired action?" For example, look at each of the pictures in the design, do they help or encourage the visitor to take action and do what you need them to do? If you answer 'No' or 'I don’t know', then get it changed or take it out... and if you don't feel confident that you can answer best for your target market, then get some customers to do you the favor and tell you what does and doesn't work in your design.

Forget about "cool" design and go for purposeful, intentional design that helps your visitors get to their objective sooner. Your conversion rates will rise and as you measure, monitor and modify you'll soon find the perfect harmony between conversion and design for your target market.

Comments are closed.