When Beautiful Design Isn't Enough

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When Beautiful Design Isn't Enough
When Beautiful Design Isn't Enough

Having a beautifully designed website works wonders for impressing your visitors and feeling good about what was created—but does it drive sales? Ultimately, the purpose of most websites is to make money, so it's important to make sure your site gives off a professional appearance. However, the main focus should always be on conversions. So, how does your website convert?

The first step in improving conversion rates is to start measuring activity. If you don't already have a Web analytics program installed for your site that should be job number one. Google Analytics is a great free tool that enables you to not only see how many visits your site gets, but what visitors do when they get there. Are they looking at certain pages more than others? Are they downloading your PDFs? Are they completing your contact form? You will quickly be able to use the data to answer these questions and more. Data analysis is essential to refining your overall strategy.

Once you have the analytics component taken care of, you then need to look at your strategy. Do you have a definitive content strategy?  Whether your site is for e-commerce or lead gen, you need a content strategy to provide visitors with information to entice interaction. If it's e-commerce, that strategy should involve the creation of unique item descriptions that are both intriguing and informative. For B2B sites, you want to offer something in return for leads. This can be whitepapers, slide decks, webinars, free reports, etc. You have to give to get.

The next step is to look at the site itself. Is it easy to navigate? Is it crystal clear what you offer? Do you tell visitors what you want them to do? Online users have very short attention spans. If you think about mobile, that attention span gets even shorter. You have just a few seconds to capture someone's attention. Site layout, offensive color schemes and lack of clear information can cause visitors to bounce off your site immediately. Take a step back and find a set of objective eyes, or pay a company like Usertesting.com to do a review for you. It's money and time well spent to get someone else's perspective.

The final and most important step is testing. Once you've identified some opportunities to clean up the site's usability, you can start testing different elements of the site. These elements include headlines, sub-headlines, images, summaries, forms, buttons, colors, etc. You can decide to do an A/B test and create an alternate version to test against the existing one. Work with your developer to have them split the traffic in real time so you have a good measure of what's really happening. You can also get a little fancy and use a multivariate test. In this scenario, you'll use software like Adobe's Test&Target to look at a number of elements simultaneously. Either scenario with provide great learnings. Multivariate will get you there faster. That said testing should be a continuous effort, so there's no need to rush things.

E-commerce sites can test their promotional copy, checkout process, and automated emails. The opportunities are endless and can seem overwhelming. You will want to define a testing strategy as well to keep yourself on track. B2B businesses can test different offers and form length. Certain topics will stand out and garner more leads. Reducing the number of required fields in a form will lessen the hesitation.

The goal of these exercises is to gradually increase your conversion rates over time. Once you're measuring and have a baseline, you can establish a KPI for when you want you conversions to go. Define a strategy and work towards implementation. Before you know it, you'll discover opportunities you never knew existed. Knowledge is power—and that especially holds true in the digital world.


Prior to cofounding search and social consultancy group Mixed Digital, Mark Simmons cut his teeth at leading NYC agencies. His previous client work includes SAP, Four Seasons Hotels and Wharton School of Business. Connect with him on LinkedIn, @markfsimmons or via www.mixeddigital.com.

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