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Optimise to Win, Pt 3: Design for Conversions – Give users what they want!

Note: this is the third of our multi-part Optimise to Win series, where we show you how the best businesses get more conversions than their competition.

Do your users know exactly what to do when they land on your site?

There are two principles of website user expectations:

  1. The user has certain desires, wants, and needs that he/she is willing to direct attention towards.
  2. The user, especially at first contact with the site, needs to be clearly shown how to meet these desires.

While your company’s founding principles may be incredibly interesting to you, if your user wants to see photos of your products, you are driving him/her away. On the other hand, if you present a prominent slideshow of your products and prices, but your users need to understand why your offerings are better than your competitors’, you aren’t capturing their attention or driving them towards conversion.

Understand users’ needs

In order to meet your users’ needs, you must first understand them. Only then can you lead them in a mutually beneficial direction.

Find an avenue that offers and highlights benefits to your users but that also provides benefits for your organisation, and point users down that path with a passion.

Not every user is a possible convert

Some users do not fit your target audience. They may have no desires that you can fulfill within your expertise & offerings. Don’t worry about them. Focus on the 20% who can provide 80% of your business.

Suggest a mutually beneficial path

This is the role of good design. Take users by the hand and show them a clear path to what they (and you) want.

4 Proven Conversion-Focused Design Guidelines

These are best practices applicable to all website designs. Each of the following guidelines is designed to prevent users from leaving before a mutually beneficial conversion. Ignore at your own risk.

1. Provide clear navigation

We’ll discuss User Experience, Usability, and user expectations in Part 9, but in short, there are certain user interface patterns that people are used to, and that we need to follow to avoid confusing our visitors. This includes having a clear, easily parsable navigation that can quickly take users to where they want to go.

Not only does this mean that your links should be easy to find, look like links, and show a clear hierarchy, but before building your site, you need to consider your Information Architecture, i.e. how to best organise your content so that it is intuitive and interesting. Having destinations on your site that succinctly address your users’ concerns and desires often makes the difference between conversions and unsatisfied users.

Additionally, don’t split your information into different pages unnecessarily. Users are reluctant to click on a brand new page, even more so if they aren’t on the fastest internet connection or your site loads too slowly. One-page sites are quite popular these days, and with good reason: they provide all the information a user wants without requiring additional webpage loading. If you can’t sum up the essence of your company on one digestible page, perhaps you need to do some good content development (see Part 7).

2. Allow minimal distractions

We’ll discuss simplicity, minimalism, and focus further in Part 4, but features to avoid in particular are:

  • Modal pop-ups, especially right after the page is loaded. This frustrates users and cheapens the experience irrevocably. While it could improve short-term signups to present users with a form up-front and immediately (in line with our goal of showing users what to do), most users find such distractions distasteful at best and unacceptable at the worst.
  • Excessive ads. Perhaps your revenue is generated at least in part by ads shown on your website – however, to create a long-term community of returning and interacting users, ads need to be placed as unobtrusively as possible while still giving users the option of clicking on them. The best ads are targeted as specifically as possible to each user, so that the user sees them as a possible benefit (i.e. a good deal or awareness of a product/service they are now interested in) rather than as an annoyance.
  • Generally, don’t include auto-playing video or audio. Many, if not most, users open web pages up in background tabs. Un-prompted noises are always a surprise, and often end up with the user quickly closing the site without even looking at it, particularly in a work setting.
3. Show users where to go

The best way to explain what to do on your website or application is to lead users straight through the process. That means that every page needs a suggested next step. These calls to action must be action-oriented, about solving a problem the user has. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Homepage: What is your primary service or product? This needs to be made as clear as possible, and a button or obviously explorable element needs to be prominently displayed.
  • Product page: Obviously, a product page needs a clear “Buy Now” button (text can differ). But beyond that, what are some related products or accessories that the user is likely interested in as well? These should be discoverable in any case (see our upcoming Part 8: Provide Options). In addition, once users decide to make a relatively large purchase, they are far more willing to make smaller purchases that normally would seem excessive (see car or suit salesmen).
  • About Us page: The only reason your convertable users are interested in learning about you is in relation to the product or service you’re offering. Give them the option to look into or purchase right there on the spot! Many sites dead-end on this type of content page, to the detriment of their bottom line.

Case StudyNature Air moved a call-to-action to a prominent position in the content, and purchase conversions went from up 2.78% to about 19%.

There are some users who know what they want and where they’re going. They will find their way, assuming you have clear hierarchical navigation. Next Step markers lead the lost without turning away those with direction.

4. Improve the site’s look & feel

Designing for conversions includes increasing aesthetic appeal and users’ enjoyment of the site as well. This includes typography, imagery, stylistic approach, and layout.

  • Typography: Your content could be incredible, but unless it is both readable and attractive to the eye, it won’t make a difference. Additionally, it has been shown that less familiar typefaces make the content more memorable, so consider using a less-used typeface instead of standard website defaults.
  • Imagery: Photos, charts, illustrations, and infographics can be vital to a great user experience. Use them to highlight content or ideas, expand your brand, and provide interest. Use only graphics that are tailored to the content they emphasise or refer to and that match your brand identity.
    Case Study: When 37signals included a photo of a person on the redesign of their Highrise product page, they increased signups by 102.5%.
  • Stylistic approach: There have been countless and fleeting trends in web design, but great design surpasses the temporal effectiveness of trends. Mediocre design can repel potential converts as strongly as a badly structured site, while great design can impress users and lend trustworthiness and desirability to your brand itself, improving their view of your products and services in the process.
  • Layout: Embrace simplicity and focus – give users what they want as unobtrusively as possible. Do you really need that sidebar? Is your call-to-action prominent enough? Question every element of your site and analyse its effectiveness critically and using performance data from your analytics and conversion-tracking.

All in all, focus on giving your users a consistent, helpful, friendly guide towards your common goal: conversion.

For more, check out our other Optimise to Win posts:

At Redfox Media, we employ all of these methods and strategies for clients in our Online Accelerator program. Enquire now to discuss how we can help your business, and get a FREE SEO report!

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