Conversion studies

A visitor converts when they move from one page element to another, a next step in a process towards an end goal. Conversion studies aim to discover how to maximize the conversion rate, the percent of visitors that complete a process. All websites have and end goal like one of the following:

Conversion elements

A conversion element can be any element on a page with the purpose of moving the visitor to the next step towards the end goal. Common elements are headers, links, buttons and forms. Three points about conversion:

Am I in the right place

Consider why visitors are coming to your website. What problem are they trying to solve? When landing on a page, a visitor evaluates almost instantly, "Am I in the right place?" Give each page uncluttered focus on one subject so the visitor can determine the answer in the blink of an eye. Announce the page content in the first header at the top of the content section.

Most headers serve the same purpose as newspaper headlines. When there is too much information in a headline, then there is no reason to read the article. Headers that serve as headlines should say just enough to suggest a compelling read, not summarize effectively. Keep headers simple and direct, not clever. A header is a conversion element with a goal of the visitor reading further.

The role of emotion

Flower delivery benefit statementsConsider the ads that come up for a search on flower delivery. Save money first, then:

Another name for a sales pitch is an appeal, an appeal to an emotion or a habit. Often after the buying decision is made, the buyer begins to think up rational reasons to justify the purchase.

Acting on impulses and habits is almost instantaneous. Reasoning takes time. Even for decisions that require research, few approvals are made before the buyer also reaches a comfort level that can be described as warm and fuzzy.

The desired emotional response

Any approach will elicit an emotional response in the reader. Whether leading with an emotional appeal or with dispassionate facts, the desired emotional response is always the same, "Yes. I am in the right place."

Simplify, remove, reduce

Jony Ive, Apple's chief of design, reported the design effort was to, "simplify, remove and reduce," when discussing the revolutionary iPod, iPad and iPhone. Simplify each page to a clear focus. Useless clutter harms conversion. Remove irrelevant content, images and extra columns to leave only the useful elements.

Where appropriate, use conventions to minimize confusion. If two fields are usually called, "User name," and, "Password," then use the conventional names instead of creative names. To aid momentum, use unity to keep the layout consistent as the visitor moves through the website.

Content counts

The more useful information on the website, the higher the conversion rates will be. Hardcover books, a spare and time-tested design convention, evidence content is the most significant factor for a successful website. To restate a point with the word "merely" added, the designer's job is merely to create interest and focus the interest on the content.

Main and secondary pages

Keep the main page brief, the place for initial conversion elements and a table of contents for the secondary pages, which can serve as reference resources and as landing pages in their own right. Some visitors will only glance at the secondary pages, others will skim them, others will study every word. Unlike the main page, pack the secondary pages with evidence, examples and statistics to allow visitors to determine how much information is appropriate for them.

Call to action

Calls to action are more likely to be found in conversion elements close to the website's end goal. State calls to action as straightforward, specific commands, either a command you are giving or the visitor is giving. Focus on the benefit, not the cost. Front-load the action word. To borrow partial examples from the search engine ads above:

Below are examples where the visitor gives the command.

Place calls to action in elements that draw attention. Repeat a call to action with different wording. A friendly statement makes a compelling variation, for example, "We'd love to hear from you," next to a direct, "Contact us." Consider providing multiple options for making contact like a phone number plus a registration form.