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Four Design Decisions That Can Kill Conversion

When you think about optimizing conversion rates, there’s several elements that come into play–driving enough traffic to a site or page to get statistical accuracy, the copy on the page, and of course, the design of the page. Whether you’re optimizing a landing page or just trying to get your site to perform better, there’s a few design mistakes you might be making in the process. Curious? Read on to see if you’re making any and find out how to fix them:

The mistake: Having the design highlight too many (or the wrong) things

Why it’s a mistake: You’re sensing a theme here, right? These first two mistakes are both similar in that they’re giving people too many things to look at or do. This is a key mistake in website design. It’s crucial to remember that you’re not just creating something that looks great, but that’s easy to use and gets business results, as well. If you give people too many things to look at or do, they’re likely to get overwhelmed and click away without doing any of them.

What to do to fix it: If someone is on a landing page that’s designed to get them to buy something or sign up for an email list, that should be the only thing that the design highlights. If you’re looking at the overall site design, there shouldn’t be any more than three stand-out elements on any given page–and ideally, there will be only one.

Each page of your site should have a specific goal for visitors. One exception is blog posts, where the primary goal might be to capture an email subscriber, but a secondary goal would be to share the post on social media. Even in that case, you should use the design of the posts to highlight the primary goal and make it easier for people to notice and take action on. Don’t give the social shares and the email signup form equal weight visually. It’s likely that there’s 1-2 “highlight” colors in your brand’s color palettes, that are bright or high-contrast or otherwise stand out from the rest of the colors. Save those colors for the elements that really count–the one or two goals on each page.

The mistake: Piling so many things on the page that it loads at glacial speed

Why it’s a mistake: Okay, so this isn’t just limited to design, but it relates to both the design of the site and the back-end set up of it. Internet users are impatient people–40% of people abandon a website that takes over three seconds to load. And a one second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. Ouch.

What to do to fix it: Many of you reading this are using WordPress, which means that there’s plenty you can do to speed up your site. This post at WPMUDev has five quick ways to get started, and Smashing Magazine has a more comprehensive post of tips. Even if you aren’t using WordPress, make sure that image are always compressed as much as possible without losing quality. CrazyEgg has a list of other tips that apply no matter what CMS you’re using.

The mistake: Not testing the opposite of your current design

Why it’s a mistake: It used to be that everyone designed their pages to have all the important information above the fold (based on an older study that showed web users spend 80% of their time looking at content above the fold–which is the content that you don’t have to scroll to see). But that’s not the be-all end-all of the data. Another, more recent study showed that 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold. Even more recently, usability testing from Huge made them conclude that “everybody scrolls.”

What to do to fix it: Make sure you’re testing varieties of every design–you never know what will work for your business. If you currently have a long sales page, test a version of the website or landing page with a call to action above the fold. This might look like the common model of having the homepage focus on an above-the-fold CTA. Or it might look like adding an email sign-up form in the header for the blog.

Even if you’ve got a longer page that requires lots of scrolling and that’s performing well, try testing a version with more images or bullets for skimmability, or add a CTA above the fold and see how that impacts conversions.

Basically, when it comes to conversion optimization, you want to always be testing everything–even if it’s a common assumption backed up by studies.

The mistake: Not having a responsive design

Why it’s a mistake: With 60% of internet access being mostly mobile, we’ve now reached the “mobile tipping point” where mobile browsing is overtaking desktop browsers. If your site has an awful mobile browsing experience, you’re going to lose visitors (and customers).

What to do to fix it: At least the solution here is simple: make sure the website design is responsive. Test it on several different screen sizes, operating systems, and mobile browsers to make sure that it looks good.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it should be enough to get you started on the path to conversion-friendly design. Have you ever made any of these mistakes? And how will you be fixing them?

About the Author: Michelle Nickolaisen is a freelance writer/business owner based in Austin, TX

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