Creating a website that converts is like following a carefully-crafted recipe—even one missing component can throw off the whole result.
Many internet marketers focus on just the keywords or write solely for search rankings, neglecting user intent and experience. Once users visit your site, does it appeal to them, build trust, and persuade them to take action? Getting traffic to your website is only half the battle—call your users to action by designing for conversions.
How to design for conversions
The guide below breaks down all of the necessary ingredients for a website design that will improve your website conversion rate. We’ll start with the basics—things you absolutely need in your website design—then move on to more advanced techniques.
7 must-have conversion components
Before delving into further detail about the ins and outs of designing for conversions, let’s start with the basics—an aperitif if you will. At the very least, a converting web design must include the following seven items. You can even think of these items as a checklist to follow when designing any site.
1. Prominent phone number
Phone calls are an ideal conversion since they allow users to make immediate one-on-one contact with your company. It’s the method most companies prefer as it allows them to convert a potential client on the phone with their personalized service.
Make sure a phone number is in clear view and can be seen within seconds of landing on the page. A good guideline is to place your main phone number in the top right corner of your page. Since our eyes tend to read a site in either an F or Z pattern when skimming a landing page, whatever you place in the top right corner is the second thing a user will see. It’s also a common location since users are accustomed to looking in that area for the contact button.
2. Contact forms Contact forms are the ultimate conversion tool if your goal is to receive email sign-ups or purchases. If you’re providing a service, a contact form is usually the second preferred method of conversion (after phone calls) and can be helpful in filtering submissions for the relevancy.
A conversion-friendly design should feature a contact form upon first landing on the page. In fact, all highly trafficked pages and, for some businesses, all pages, should include a contact form high on the page to maximize conversions.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a value proposition in marketing as “an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers.” A value proposition is the reason users convert. It answers the questions of why choose us?” and “why should you contact us right now?” With today’s steep competition, it is imperative that you not only have a compelling value proposition, but that you feature it loud and clear on your website.
4. The right imagery
Image choices can strongly influence your target audience’s relationship to your offering and the subsequent actions they will take. The right imagery has the power to connect the user emotionally, so choose wisely and pick visuals based on the feelings you want to evoke in your visitors. For example, some family law attorneys want to appear sensitive, and showing a picture of a family experiencing a tender moment is appropriate and relatable.
One of the best ways to build trust and credibility is to include recognition badges or logos. Most industries have accolades that companies can showcase to provide a stamp of approval and credibility. Additionally, regardless of what business you’re in, displaying any press logos of media outlets that you’ve been featured in can provide a huge boost in user confidence.
We live in a world where online reviews have become the new word of mouth. Testimonials and reviews build trust in a way that is incredibly persuasive. In fact, reviews alone can solely influence a user’s decision to contact, purchase, and ultimately convert a visitor into a client.
If you don’t have any reviews or testimonials, start collecting them immediately. A good guideline is to feature three solid, verified reviews high up on your landing page and at least one quote-style testimonial somewhere else on the page. Once a potential client perceives your legitimacy, the chances of conversion greatly increase.
7. The three-second check
Last but not least is the three-second check. Burn this into your brain if you can: if within three seconds the user doesn’t know what you do or what you’re offering, you’ve lost the race before you even took off.
This is crucial and it’s distinct from the value proposition. Chances are that if a potential client can’t tell what you do right away, they will leave your site, thinking they’ve clicked the wrong page in their search or just landed on a dud and move on to the next search result. If your bounce rate is high, do a three-second check before taking any other steps. If you are unsure if your site passes the three-second check, show it to a focus group or people unfamiliar with the site since what might be obvious to you may not be obvious to the average user.
6 advanced tips for a converting design
Now that you know the essentials, the steps below delve deeper into what it takes to achieve a highly-converting design. The following steps, much like the above components, should serve as guidelines for the perfect conversion recipe.
Headers appear at the top of all your website pages. Below are a few must-haves for your header:
Local and contact information. Be sure your header includes the company name/logo, a phone number, and/or a contact button.
Credibility message. The header is also an ideal location for a call to action or a credibility message or position statement about the company, product, or service. For example, for an experienced attorney, this would be something like: “60 Years of Personal Injury Experience.” Not only does this message convey what the firm does, but it states that they’ve been in the business for decades, helping to instill trust based on their experience.
Make it sticky. Make your header sticky, which means that your header literally sticks to the top of the browser while the user scrolls down the page. A sticky header allows your most important information to remain visible regardless of where the user is on the page, always providing a potential conversion opportunity.
2. Contact form
Follow this precise method for creating contact forms that really work their magic:
Keep it short. Keep the contact form short and only include the form fields that are absolutely necessary. Users are more likely to complete a form if it is short and simple and are likely to abandon it if it seems complicated or overwhelming.
Repetition is key. Make sure contact forms appear on every page of your site. Keep in mind that not all users enter your site through the home page or other main pages. You don’t want to miss your opportunity to convert.
Confirmation page optimization. A confirmation page is what the user receives once they submit their form. It helps leave users feeling confident about the submission. In your confirmation page, include next steps for a potential client, or an assurance—that they will receive a response within 24 hours, for example. A well-designed and well-informed confirmation page can lead to the ultimate sale.
Add a guarantee. The guarantee can be tied into your value proposition and should heighten the sense of urgency for someone to convert. A common guarantee can be something for FREE (I encourage you to capitalize and bold this word). A free consultation or a free ebook is an unexpected value that a user may want to take advantage of. Other examples of guarantees might be 24/7 availability or no fees.
Test the form. It sounds obvious, but you need to check your form’s performance on all devices to ensure it works properly. There is nothing worse than hooking a user but not being able to complete the conversion due to technical difficulties.
3. Overall design layout
Since many important components need to appear on the page, it’s key to ensure they all work well together.
Create an informational hierarchy. Informational hierarchy, or visual hierarchy, is about emphasizing on-page items in order of their importance. Often, the value proposition is the highest in importance because we want users to view that first. If all components were the same size, a user wouldn’t know where to glance and it would create confusion.
Balance, not clutter. A sure way to turn off users is an overwhelming design, aka clutter. Creating balance is a challenge because designers have so much to communicate in such a small space. Your choices need to be thoughtful and streamlined; you can’t just dump in content and expect it to perform well. A good designer knows how to create balance with sizing, placement, and trimming the fat.
Aim for good proportions. Aiming for good proportions is a key part of a balanced design. Check to see if your logo, menu, photo, headline, image, form, and other items are proportionate to each other. Does anything stick out like a sore thumb? Do elements work cohesively with each other and flow into one another? Be sure to evaluate this balance not just on desktop but on all devices, especially mobile. With the majority of site users viewing on mobile, you cannot afford to make that mistake.
4. Content and headers
You'll also want to make sure the actual content in your design is valuable to your customers.
Chunk your content. A huge block of content on a website is overwhelming to visitors. In fact, most people don’t read a lot of content on sites as it is, so they will almost never read a dense display of text. Combat this pitfall by chunking your content—break it up into small paragraphs. Include headers for the paragraphs or display them in a list format. This kind of content is easily digestible so a possible conversion opportunity won’t be lost.
Write catchy headers. Engaging content is a must—you don’t want a snooze fest. While not every sentence on your site will keep users at the edge of their seats, catchy headers are the hook that keeps them reading on to the more informative, less exciting content.
Results can speak volumes to the user. While results can come in many different forms, it’s important to include results that are relevant to your offering.
Display the $. If your product or service helps a client earn, save, or recover money, display that to your customers. People really care about money, so show them what’s possible so they don’t shy away from these kinds of results.
Before and afters. “Before and afters” are powerful storytellers. If your work lends itself to these types of visuals, take the time to craft these components and include them on your landing page. Depending on the industry you serve, you may be able to find a creative way to make this persuasive technique work for you.
Case studies. A case study is a more in-depth explanation of a result. A good structure for a case study highlights the original problem, the method, the service or product applied, and the resulting conclusion. This breakdown of information helps give the user a peek into your process, helping them see you as an expert in your field. It can also be a persuasive way to show how you helped other clients or customers.
6. Test, test, and test again
What you think will work doesn’t always work. As professionals, we make our best-educated decisions based on the data and information we have access to. However, that information is constantly changing and testing our theories for the best design is a sure way to know whether we’ve hit the mark or not. Testing results will lead you to know whether your website design is good to go or if further revisions are needed.
Pretend you’re the target audience. The simplest and fastest (although least accurate) way to test is to view the site as if you were the target audience. You can ask others you know, including current or past clients, to do the same. Does it connect? Would you contact the company or purchase a product based on what you’re seeing?
Engage focus groups. Focus groups will view the site with a fresh set of eyes and perspectives. The main benefit of focus groups is that they will provide honest, unbiased feedback and it’s not necessary for them to know any background information to do so.
Perform A/B or multivariate testing.A/B and multivariate testing are completely data-driven, that is to say, opinions don’t really matter. They work in such a way that the user will either see an A, B, or C option of a website. The options will vary somehow in each version— there could be a different design, message, or layout, for example. The version that obtains the most conversions is clearly the winner in terms of the best converting option. As a hard, concrete answer, it is incredibly valuable and can help with future conversion designs.
As more businesses are finding their livelihoods exist online, converting design is imperative. A winning formula takes time, trial and error, and adjustments, just like an award-winning recipe. However, if you use the right components and continue to make small tweaks along the way, you will achieve conversion victory.
Make sure you have a robust website builder to support your website conversion efforts.
Elyssa Helfman is the Creative Director for PaperStreet, a web design company that serves the legal industry. She loves helping companies develop a unique web presence through her unique, award-winning designs.