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Conversion Optimization by Ayat Shukairy, Khalid Saleh

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Design Aspects

Design is subjective, especially to online users. You may have been certain that users would respond positively to a redesign, but you discovered quickly that the new design only confused existing customers and did nothing to motivate new customers. What you may find as an appealing design may not resonate well with your visitors. This is when taking a client-centric, visitor-focused approach will help you deliver a design that works for your potential clients. As you work through your website design to enhance trust, we recommend the following guidelines:

Start small

Start by making small changes on a page. You can use these changes to learn more about your visitors’ behavior, and then build upon these changes with further improvements to the site. Changing too many elements on your website will leave you confused about what worked and what did not. Small iterative changes will produce more results in the long run than drastic measures. By following this approach, you will arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to make educated changes instead of randomly throwing together combinations.

Know when to redesign or not redesign

Many clients ask us whether they should focus on redesigning their websites or on using conversion optimization. Redesigning a website with no prior knowledge of user behavior has failed for a number of companies we talked to.

Test your design

Chapter 9 is dedicated to testing because it is an integral part of the optimization process. Conversion optimization remains part art and part science. Testing will allow you to validate whether your design is working for your visitors.

The following discussion highlights some areas of design that you must consider from a trust and confidence perspective.

Functionality and Usability

Having a functional website with a user-friendly design is integral in terms of allowing your site visitors to have an enjoyable site experience. As visitors go through the site, their confidence in your brand increases. To continue growing that confidence, the site must be user-friendly. When we conduct an initial review of a website, one of the first areas we consider is the general functionality of the site. If an area is not working properly, it must be addressed immediately.

Site navigation

Users can take different navigational paths around your website. You should measure the effectiveness of each path in getting the user to the end conversion goal. One user may utilize left navigation, while another uses top navigation, and yet another uses the search functionality. Users can get to their desired service or product page in several other ways. Site navigation is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to usability. It is also an area where you might run into technology limitations when attempting to change it. Maintain that everything works properly by:

Creating path scenarios

Before conducting a usability study, it’s important to create path scenarios based on analytics. What paths do users most commonly take to get to a conversion goal? Evaluate the paths along the way to determine whether the functionality is working properly. Common paths should have prominent placement for visitors to find what they are looking for faster.

Analyzing the search functionality

Based on your vertical, 10% to 30% of your website visitors will rely on search functionality to find what they are looking for. If your search function does not display the most relevant results for visitors, you should consider removing it from the forefront of your page.

Ensuring continuity

Continuity is crucial throughout the user’s experience on your site, up until the user reaches the order confirmation page. Provide continuity from page to page by ensuring that any images or text your users click on appears in some way on the next page.

Placing elements in the right place

There are common areas where users expect certain elements, such as descriptions, images, benefits, and call-to-action buttons. Visitors expect links to be underlined in blue, for example. However, some sites try to do things differently and present an unorthodox layout, navigation, and design. It’s important to measure the effectiveness of any changes and their impact on conversion. Online shoppers are generally unaccustomed to change, so when you present them with a different layout and design, they may not know what to do, which increases anxieties.

Other Design Factors

Here are some best practices that we like to consider early in the conversion process:

Whitespace needs balance

Too much or too little whitespace can have a similar impact on users. Space between elements on a category page can give a page an “unpolished” look, which will damage visitors’ confidence in the site. Your goal is to have enough space so that a user can distinguish the different elements and you can avoid cluttering the page.

Product images are key ingredients to successful selling online

The image can convince site visitors either to move forward with their purchase process or that the product is not for them. Figure 4-26 displays an image of an ecommerce site offering engraved and personalized gifts. Would you purchase from this site if this was the main image on the home page? Do the gifts look like something you would present to a loved one? It’s a matter of taste, but you can be certain that more optimized images and close-up options will build user confidence in the product.

Product presentation is central

Building user confidence has never been a more enjoyable challenge than it is today because of all the technological advances that allow companies to sell more effectively. Apparel stores have taken products to an entirely different level with their virtual models. A user can select her body type and size, and in some cases upload a photo of herself to model the clothing—all from the comfort of her home. Although the technology still has its flaws, it allows users to leave nothing about the product to the imagination. So, do not clutter your page with competing images. All elements need to work harmoniously to support the value you offer your customers. This pertains especially to landing pages that are standalone (i.e., the subscription or email capture happens within one step). Since there is usually one primary goal for such a campaign, competing messages can deter from the main objective of the page and the value you are trying to reiterate.

Avoid using flashing colors that distract visitors from the main purpose of the page

Figure 4-27 shows the main home page for Hasbro.com, the large toy manufacturer. Although flashy neon colors may work for Hasbro because of the products it sells, these colors can deter from the main objective for other websites. Can you determine by looking at Figure 4-27 what the designers of the site want visitors to do? The “Shop” feature, which might be one of the most important functions of the site, is crowded with too many competing elements.

Personalized gifts product image

Figure 4-26. Personalized gifts product image

Hasbro.com main home page

Figure 4-27. Hasbro.com main home page



There is never a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to trust. The placement and layout of trust elements is influenced by personas developed for a particular landing page.

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