How to Design a Website to Maximize Conversions

I’m often asked how to design a website that will maximize conversions. Obviously several factors exist in this process, such as your product and customer base, so there’s no one right answer that will suffice for every business. But there are a few basic tips that can apply across the board of web design.

First of all, creating a laser-focused design requires a keen eye for balanced interfaces and natural rhythm, and practice can get you into a familiar process. But questioning your own process is the key to going beyond the ordinary to reach the extraordinary. Web design from a marketer’s perspective often seems like a cheesy sales gimmick – unfortunately this is often the case. Although a well-converting layout is acutely more important, a well-crafted design can only enhance the user experience.

It cannot be overstated that the composition of a website is critically important to successful user conversion rates. That being the case, I’d like to state a few helpful ideas for building websites with a direct focus on user conversion rates. Most of the time, you’ll be focused on landing page design for selling products or mobile apps. But social networks and other communities aim to convert new users with more signups. The process is straightforward but also requires a little practice to achieve proficiency.

Flowing Movement

Think of visitors more like the ebb and flow of ocean tides as they all come in and eventually recede out. Your goal is to capture their interest and hopefully get a successful CTA before they leave, whether it’s another app download or newsletter subscriber.

Break down the process from a mechanical “this-then-that” procedure, and look at it more as a flowing movement. The conversion process is often an appeal to emotions or a personal connection. There is a moment where someone finally decides to click and fulfill their curiosity.

Your job is to create an environment which fosters curiosity and pushes users towards this moment of immersion. Buttons should be noticeable yet blended, easy to read but also cryptic in nature. Phrases like “click to read more” don’t mean anything if the information has already been served on a silver platter. So page flow also relates to the flow of contextual information along with the flow of user interactions.

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As you come up with each new idea, ask yourself if it can benefit the user experience. Place yourself in the shoes of a new visitor and imagine how you might react.

Structured Information Architecture

Reaching a natural flow is not as easy-breezy as it might sound. You need to consider how users view a webpage and how they typically interact with content. Obviously this requires practice, but also spend time thinking about how you might interact with a landing page. Which elements stand out the most? What makes you more likely to proceed?

Information architecture is a broad subject which applies to all forms of digital design. Website layouts require a healthy architecture to get content structured in a usable fashion. Wireframing is a good first step – plan out the big areas and rapidly build as many prototypes as necessary. After a little practice, you’ll reach a point where fresh ideas seem to just appear out of nowhere.

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Constantly work to build up your own library of visual ideas and resources. Unfortunately this visual library doesn’t require the Dewey Decimal System which is perhaps one of the most exciting facets to real-world information architecture. But it does require a healthy love for the web and websites in general. Always keep your eyes open for new ideas, cool effects, or appealing methods of structuring page content. Stumbling into your own creative ingenuity is a surefire way to craft readable content that would make Melvil Dewey proud.

Writing Great Copy

After you’ve structured the framework for a website, the innards need to be surgically implanted. But unlike building Frankenstein’s monster, we designers should always have control over a website (although we all may be considered mad scientists). If something isn’t working, just change it up – one such important factor is written page copy.

The tone of writing on a landing page hinges greatly on the audience. Do you need to write in a more sophisticated and upbeat manner? Should the copy read more funny, witty, or clever with wordplay? Should words jump off the page and tug at the reader’s emotional heartstrings? Or can you just write a marketing pitch like a used car salesman and still achieve conversions?

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Every project will be different, but they all need great writing. Most visitors will not spend much time reading, and those who do probably won’t finish the entire page. This means you should quickly make your point and keep all the important stuff near the top.

Also try to avoid repeating information unless it’s presented in a new way. This can be tough if there’s only a little bit of satiating details for readers to consume. Instead of repeating yourself, fill the gaps with other helpful items like graphics or a video presentation. Similarly you might add more buttons or links to other pages on the site.

Actually knowing how to write is another topic entirely. But you don’t need to out-write Billy Shakespeare to sell users on a website or product. Find your voice relative to the audience, and just get some words down. Most good writing comes during the rewrites.

Systematic Page Elements

You know when you mix darks and lights into one load of laundry then accidentally run the colors together? Yeah it can be funny when you do that to prank your friend or your grandma, but it’s still a disaster of semi-moderate proportions. This same idea can be applied to mixing a lot of page elements into one big bundle of laundry, only to find out you put the wrong items together. Then visitors are confused from the chaotic design, and your grandma is still yelling in the background.

There is an easy and obvious solution which only requires a bit of separation. A webpage focused on user conversions will split up each section into parts dedicated to a specific subject. For example most CTA buttons or links will be placed above-the-fold towards the page header. This section will also need some information about the conversion funnel (account signup, buy/sell something, free download, etc).

Avoid mixing too many different items together in the same page section. Use a lot of white space to keep items separate but related. If there’s only a single focused goal, then each section will dictate a piece of this goal. Similarly if there are multiple goals, you can split them vertically down the page into different sections of content.

Keep in mind that you can use focal points and cues to help sell the CTA. Arrows, bright circles, big graphics or vector characters all help to build brand recognition and draw attention. Energy goes where attention flows so aim for that natural flowing motion from one page to the next. Keep attention flowing onto important page sections by any means necessary, and keep those sections relatively minimalist so that every visitor knows where to click and why they’re clicking. Lastly, never underestimate the power of psychology in web design. Color can convey different feelings from site visitors and therefore, can produce different user actions. So think carefully about the message you want to convey to your customers about your brand when selecting colors for your site.

Incentivize!

To really bulk up conversion numbers, try offering an additional something for free. This may be a free trial or a free download or teaser package. I have visited plenty of landing pages that looked downright horrifying. Yet many of them still got my e-mail address because of that extra little something.

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That little something does not always need to be a free download or free trial. But it does help to give visitors some incentive for going through the conversion process. This is a technique you should play with to find whatever works best.

Although extra things/freebies are great, incentives don’t always need to be extra things. For example the e-mail subscription box for an eCommerce shop might offer periodical coupons on select items. Or if it’s a social community, you can offer extra profile features to early adopters. Try thinking outside the box like stereotypical business people. Buy a large conference room table, and start analyzing quarterly budgets if that helps you get outside the imaginary thinking box.

Each of these ideas alone is just a small faction of a much greater conceptual ideology. To build a heavily focused website, you’ll often start at the user’s perspective and work from there. Standard marketing techniques will always help in moderation. But more importantly try to make a real connection with each visitor. Well-crafted design should assist with selling the website itself by drawing attention and keeping that attention focused long enough to provoke deeper curiosity.

Need Ideas?

Now that you have reviewed the basics of web design, get inspired by these posts.

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