There are many elements that go into a high converting website, and somewhere near the top of the list is design.
The look and feel of your website is the first impression you give to any visitor and it can make or break your conversions.
In fact, 94% of first-time visitors will make a judgment about whether or not they can trust your site based on your design alone, and 88% won’t return if they have a bad experience navigating your design.
If you’re looking at your site and wondering, “Is this high converting enough?” don’t worry. You don’t have to rush out and hire the most expensive web designer out there to see results.
There are actually a few simple design tweaks you can make that will boost your conversion rates. Here’s what you need to know.
Balance Visuals with Strong CTAs
The whole goal of your website isn’t just to look pretty – users need to take action. You can have the best design in the world but if no one knows what to click or where to navigate, you’re not going to convert.
There are a few ways that design can lead to action, and one of those ways is by using it to highlight your call-to-action. Again, it’s not about having the slickest site out there; you just need to know how to use your current design to its potential.
Take Squarespace, for example. Their site has won awards for best visual design, and you can see why:
While their site is arguably gorgeous, their CTA isn’t in your face. You have to scroll down a bit to even see it. But for Squarespace it’s not as important because people who come to their site are coming for the design.
Their sales pitch is that they can build you a beautiful website quickly and easily, and chances are that if you’re on their site, you already know that.
Now take a look at Wikipedia’s design:
It’s not nearly as visually appealing as Squarespace, but the biggest difference is that there are calls to action everywhere. People immediately know what action they should take when they land on the site.
So which is better? The best websites know their audience and use both design and CTAs to reach them.
If you run a directory, for example, people aren’t necessarily there to be blown away by your aesthetics, but if your site is cluttered or ugly, they may have a negative impression of your site.
If you don’t focus on design, you risk first-time visitors assuming your directory is full of spam or is otherwise unreliable.
Design Hack: Put your CTA in two places: At the top and bottom of your homepage and at the bottom of every landing page. Use the rest of the space sparingly, with copious white space.
Use Images Generously
Don’t get us wrong, text is very important. We’ve even wrote a whole piece on how typography affects conversions. In terms of SEO, having copy on your site is essential.
But that doesn’t mean your whole site needs to be made up solely of words. In fact, using more visual elements can actually enhance your overall appeal, especially if you’re a directory.
Take Hermes Travel, for instance:
The bulk of their SEO text is in the their image descriptions, which is a key component to SEO anyway. Images themselves can actually generate plenty of their own traffic from search engines.
There’s really no reason why you can’t build your whole website around images as long as you have a really strong CTA (or two).
But even if you don’t want to use large images in place of your category headers or your navigation, you can still use images to affect conversion.
The Art Institute’s site uses a combination of bold images and text, but they also do something else – they include a black arrow above their forms:
The upside to this small visual cue is that your eyes are drawn to it: you immediately know what to do.
You can use a bevy of these little images around your site to help boost your CTAs, too. The folks over at Unbounce have a whole article dedicated to these helpful visual cues, and the best part is that they’re easy to incorporate into your site in any place.
Design hack: Replace categories and navigation with images and use image descriptions to boost your SEO in place of long copy on your landing pages. Use subtle visual cues to improve your site’s appearance and point people to your CTAs.
Remove Every Unnecessary Element
One of the main reasons that many website owners overlook design is that they want to focus on the essentials of SEO. If you’re not super familiar with SEO, however, you may think that the more elements you include on your site, the better it will be.
As we mentioned earlier, clutter can negatively impact your design, which can significantly hurt your conversions. Even if someone got to your site through a top search engine ranking, they won’t stay on your site if it’s hideous.
And as we mentioned before, SEO can be just as easily affected by image descriptions as it can by pages of long text. So if you want to improve SEO and improve conversions, you’re actually better off removing the clutter from your site.
But what stays and what goes? What’s absolutely essential to both SEO and conversions and what’s just bells and whistles?
In psychological terms, the Law of Prägnanz (literally, the “law of pithiness” in German) says that we tend to order our experiences in a symmetrical, simple manner. In other words, we prefer things in an orderly fashion and we avoid complex ideas and designs wherever possible.
Therefore, a few things your website doesn’t need to be beautiful and functional include:
- Lots of copy that explains your services or product
- Long explanations or descriptions of each category (for directories)
- An abundance of complicated features like video and social media, etc.
Take mobile business company Device Magic as the perfect example. They had built a beautiful homepage filled with lots of bullet points, options for organizations and developers, and even an introductory video explaining how everything worked:
But when they converted to a much simpler and more streamlined design, they found that their conversions increased by 35%.
If you have a directory, your main focus is to have people search your page. The bulk of your copy should be in the results themselves, not everywhere on your page.
If you have a lot of categories (and you don’t want to go the image-only route), take a page from Box Theme directory and eliminate everything except your search and navigation:
Design hack: Remove every element that absolutely doesn’t need to be there. If you’re not exactly sure what features of your site are converting or not, try A/B testing over the course of a few weeks or months and see which elements are actually affecting your site.
If you’re looking to improve your website’s conversion rates, you’re looking to do a few key things:
- Focus on design that enhances your CTAs
- Include images and visual cues wherever possible
- Eliminate any unnecessary text or information
The less cluttered and complicated your site is, the better it will convert. Don’t be afraid to swap out text for pictures (as long as you have great image descriptions to boost SEO), don’t be afraid to get rid of stuff, and most importantly, don’t forget about your CTAs.