Looking at a website or a single webpage as a consumable can help you to gauge its goals and, ultimately, its metric for success.
The consumption of a website is a means to a conversion. What that conversion is ultimately depends on the goals set for the project, but a conversion is the final goal, at least as far as the website goes.
Some examples of a conversion include filling out a contact form, buying a product or downloading a file. These are the easiest to measure. Other types of conversion such as an increase in brand awareness and transfer of knowledge are a lot more difficult to measure.
Setting visitors onto the path to conversion is as much a challenge as getting them to convert in the first place
One of the major challenges with a webpage whose primary goal is to convert visitors is filtering out those who will not convert, or more accurately those who aren’t a target audience.
A common mistake is a catch-all approach to pages that need to convert visitors; trying too hard to lure in all people under the sun is a waste of time and ultimately fruitless.
Why spend the effort catching everybody when you can invest the time and resources researching and targeting those who are more likely to convert? If any of those audiences are low-hanging fruit, that’s a bonus, but conversion is rarely easy.
Also worth remembering is that there is no single approach that works for all pages or conversion types. Take each page or project on a case-by-case basis, thinking carefully about the purpose and intent of each page, rather than the project as a whole.
These are some tips for designing and building webpages that convert visitors.
Know your demographic
It sounds obvious, but knowing your demographic can give you the power to target specifically who you want to, and means that those who visit the page are already more qualified and will make a more valuable conversion.
Demographics are about more than age, sex and location. Using the various tools available to you, you can know more specific things about your audience such as whether or not they are in school or university, their country of origin and whether or not they are single or in a relationship.
You can then use these data to gain more insight into your audience and adjust your page accordingly.
Figure out what visitors want
It is all too tempting to assume that visitors want your product or service when they land on your page but the reality is that the majority of the time they don’t. It is only ever safe to assume that a visitor doesn’t want your product or service, and they haven’t come to your page with the intention of converting.
Knowing what your visitors want and taking advantage of that is the first step in gaining conversions. You can’t offer something to somebody if they don’t want it. Even if they do convert, they won’t necessarily be valuable to you, so why waste the resources?
Use tools such as Google Analytics and Traffic Truffle to figure out who your visitors are and what they are looking for, and adjust your page accordingly. Adjust the content, but also adjust the call to action. If they are less likely to fill out a form but more likely to tap a button, then by all means switch the data capture for a button.
The myths and realities of the fold
Any web designer worth their salt will be able to recite the age-old rule about keeping all essential content above the fold.
The fold is older than the web; it’s in reference to the point on a broadsheet newspaper where it would naturally be folded. It was widely known that anything under this point on a broadsheet page is less likely to be read by the end user.
That concept made its way to the web and, for some time, it was true. However, the introduction of smartphones and mobile web browsing has made people a lot more proficient at scrolling pages, so whilst information architecture means putting the important stuff first, cramming everything at the top of the page is actually counterintuitive.
Unfortunately, the myth has led to webpages with cramped and squashed content, with limited breathing and reading space because those in charge of the project have mistakenly highly prioritized all of the content.
On pages whose primary goal is to convert, there should be a single most Important Thing and one or two other Important Things whose goal it is to reassure.
An Important Thing might be a sign-up form, and the other one or two Important Things are there only to lead people to the form. These can be a brief, concise list of benefits of signing up or a one-liner about the product or service the user will get after signing up.
Nothing on the page should detract from the primary goal of converting: in this case anything doing that is a distraction from the sign-up form.
Placing the key, primary call to action above the fold, along with concise information around that call to action is all that is needed. Any other supplementary information should be below this. This allows for ease of reading and a clear message guiding users to the action we want them to take.
So squashing everything above the fold = bad. Thinking in a careful and considered way about what sits above the fold = good.
How to gain visitors’ trust
Trust is the single most important thing you need to get from a visitor. Trouble comes when you assume it is a conversion because the simple fact is that if a visitor doesn’t trust your page, they won’t convert anyway.
There are simple but effective rules when it comes to gaining the trust of your visitors, and executing them is a proven science.
Logos and accreditations
Listing the logos of some of your more important clients, or accreditations you have achieved (the more recent and well known the better) instantly achieves trust. It acts as an endorsement of your skills, or the quality of your services or products.
A concise list of benefits
Listing three or four benefits of converting for your visitors may sound simple, but the way they are presented and placed on a page can have a major impact. Ensure your list of benefits use tick marks instead of simple bullets, and consider making the text size slightly larger than the standard copy size.
This creates a positive reinforcement, allowing the visitor to come to his/her own trust without being loud about it.
Words directly from the mouths of existing clients or customers are infinitely more important and carry more weight than your own on any page, but especially on those pages where conversion is the goal. Easy-to-scan and concise testimonials on a page can add a level of trust that is difficult to achieve without them.
Pictures of people
This can go hand in hand with the testimonials. Real pictures of real people (read: not stock photos) can allow visitors to relate more to the service you’re providing or the product you’re selling.
There is even a basic level of science around things such as the direction a person in a picture is looking is likely to be scanned by a visitor, and heatmaps can prove that a visitor will always concentrate their attention on faces in pictures.
A/B test your page
A/B testing is a good way to figure out which of two variations on a page works better. There can be more than one legitimate option for the design of a specific page, and sometimes using A/B testing is the best way to figure out which one will perform better.
There are various A/B testing services such as Optimizely which allow you to serve one page to half of your website visitors and another page entirely to the other half.
Whichever one produces better or more conversions is probably the one you want to roll out to all users.
Keep it simple
Overcomplicated user experiences rarely convert. Making a visitor work to figure out what needs to be done will just drive them away. Follow some of these rules for keeping it simple and visitors are far more likely to convert.
Use concise, human language
Keep your headings clear and short, and don’t just target search engines by stuffing keywords into your headings. That’s great for traffic but that traffic is utterly pointless if they’re not going to convert. Make sure you break copy up with headings, images, pull quotes and lists – people love lists because they’re concise and easy to digest.
Keep the journey short
Don’t make a visitor search for where to click, and don’t make the user click or tap five times before getting to the final destination, or she may just give up halfway through.
Don’t be worried about breaking content up
Having lots of content is great but stuffing it all onto one page can be detrimental to both your search engine rankings and the user experience of your visitors. Keep the content on any one page relevant to a topic and put content about other topics on other pages.
If the content is related, build some links for wider reading and for search engines to find all of the relevant content.
Ultimately, a page that converts talks to human beings. It needs to be understood by human beings, and should be written and laid out in a way that is conducive to that.
Consider humans, not search engines, in your writing style.
Gently guide visitors to the conversion, don’t go over the top with salesy language.
Remember, it’s far easier for a visitor to close your page than it is to walk away from an aggressive salesperson, so be friendly and include your trust signals for the best chance of conversion.
Keep everything concise and remember who you are targeting, so that you can focus on them alone, rather than wasting resources trying to appeal to everybody.
The primary goal of most websites is to be consumed, much like any other product.