What’s your first step?

Today, creating conversion-centered design means acknowledging that a user is a real person. As such, they expect real products from brands, real moments, real experiences, and by extension, a natural-feeling user experience that communicates value, identity, and purpose. Just because you’re a digital company or brand doesn’t mean you don’t have the opportunity to go beyond that. Audiences today are requiring that the user experience be much bigger than just what happens on your website. Just one percent of people say that ecommerce sites meet their expectations.

In Short:

Your website is the final countdown, the closer. If you aren’t considering conversion-centered design designing for conversion in a way that caters to the entire user experience, the user could lose interest in the moment. That’s because UX itself isn’t entirely bound by digital (the customer journey may start offline). But if a potential customer bounces from your website, it’s likely because your design lost momentum or wasn’t targeted enough.

What does conversion in design mean?

Let’s Start With A Definition.

Creating a conversion-centered design means that you’re building a digital experience that is leading people to your goal — whatever that goal may be.

This could be clicking on an ad, providing an email, checking out a cart, etc. Once you’ve identified your goal, the follow-up should be: “How do I get someone to take action?” That depends on what vehicle you’ll be using to achieve your goal — UX or UI — and knowing the difference between UX and UI to effectively drive conversions.

It’s important to know that you can create conversion-centered design within the UX or UI framework.

UX – User Experience

UX, or User Experience, design involves thinking about how a user interacts with your website. Good or bad UX design could literally make or break your business. A good user interface can increase websites’ conversion rates by up to 200%.Using UX design to convert customers can include everything from digital work to physical products in the built world (UX can, and often does, take place completely offline). The focus is on getting the user to interact with and experience a company as a whole in such a way that they are “sold.” Conversion is baked into the experience.

UI – User Interface

UI, or User Interface, design is the process of designing the look and style of a site. Designing for conversion by using UI is geared more towards getting the user to a certain screen. This is typically done by guiding or enticing the user with relevant color schemes, icons, typography, etc. UI can be, and usually is, a part of the larger UX picture. The difference is that with UI, conversion is the end goal.

At Marketwake, we lean more towards designing for conversion via UX instead of UI because we know there has to be a balance between the creativity that entices people and the strategies/experiences that sell. In the ever-evolving digital world, you have to think about things holistically, and producing conversion-centered design is no different. It has evolved and if you’re still doing it the old way, you need to catch up.

Why Designing for conversion is important

It has been scientifically proven that UX design and conversion-centered design have major positive impacts on any website. It’s important to understand that conversion-centered design is a tool — not the solution — and as such, should be employed thoughtfully and with a specific purpose. Leading with design as the solution is the old way of thinking, where UI was the chief strategy to increase conversion. That doesn’t work anymore. The new conversation is about leveraging UX as a toolbox (with UI as a one of the tools) and knowing how and when to use each tool. 

Marketwake’s very own UX Designer, Cole Christiansen, says that both strategic thinking and emotional intelligence play big roles in his day-to-day job as he creates conversion-centered design. Still curious? Let’s hear more of what he has to say.

A lot of people go into the design process and immediately think that driving users to a contact form is the end-all-be-all strategy.

– Which contact form should I use?
– What’s the best call to action?
– Is it specific to a product?

Instead, you should be asking questions like this:

– What is the goal?
– How are we going to achieve the goal?
– What’s the best way to measure the goal?

Answering those questions and setting that vision are ways to measure the success of your strategy. When it comes to optimizing your user journey, you must be extremely specific. When people are redesigning a website, they anticipate having a strategy (of course), but how granular you make that is important. When designing for conversion, it’s not just about having the user fill out a form — your strategy must inform the conversation.

Mapping out your goals — even dual goals, which is not uncommon — is key because it helps support your design process and ultimately guides how people are self-selecting that journey. Are you driving two conversion points? If so, what does that strategy look like? Going into a design knowing that you’ve got multiple to-do’s to check off your list is critical, because a dual-action journey is going to look very different from a single conversion strategy, and your overall strategy should reflect that.

Here’s your designing for conversion mandate:

Decrease the choices available to your audience in order to increase your chance that they’ll convert.

Once you have a goal in mind, you need to get granular with every element. You can’t just dive directly into the copy around your goal and the graphics and the visuals, etc., because it won’t work. You have to distill every aspect as far down as possible in order to clear the noise and focus on the goal.

This has evolved from several years ago when you might start designing for conversion with UI leading the way. Back then, designing for conversion meant allowing the UI to dictate the look and feel, to capture the essence of the brand and help nurture the customer’s journey with almost no strings attached. Nowadays, you want the pillars of the brand to uphold the journey and to think about the digital side first because ultimately, data informs the best path to conversion, not UI alone.

Hick’s Law: “The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.”

Put another way, the longer it takes — and the more complicated the path or experience is for the user — the less likely you’ll be able to convert your customer. If you think of the design first, that’s ok, just make sure it is equally informed by your data, your goal, and your strategy to account for efficiency.

Assuming you have the structure in place first, you must design with purpose.

You might be able to go through the design process and choose a bank of photos that would work for your website, but we do not recommend it. Without knowing the conversation first, you’ll be putting the cart in front of the horse.

That’s because people are turned off by a visual that isn’t 100% integrated and informed by the copy around it. Conversation is truly about ensuring the words and the visuals are saying the same thing — if not, then you will lose trust and buy-in. Designing for conversion is designing for real people who are trying to have an honest conversation with you through the website. Every aspect (copy, visuals, etc.) relies on and builds upon each other — it all needs to hold together.

This is more in terms of what happens within your journey.

You must be quick in moving from point to point and wrapping it up cohesively.

You have three seconds to grab the attention of the user and eight seconds for them to either opt-in or opt-out. That’s it. Within three seconds, the user has realized whether you’re worth their time at all.

When designing for conversion in the past, we would focus on the UI first, but if your headlines aren’t capturing the essence of what you do, then it ends up being too noisy.

The first eight to twelve words on your page need to be extremely strategic and informative. The copy shouldn’t only include WHAT you do, but WHY you do it. If you don’t have the who/why/how of what you are, then you’re going to lose your audience. Make sure that succinctly establishing your identity is part of your strategy and the first thing on your UX checklist.

Another way of saying this is to keep sight of the big picture.

Conversion design elements alone are not enough.

All the things that play into designing for conversion: color theory, CTA button design, how all of these things lead to conversion rates, etc. are part of the old conversation if they’re only done for their own sake. You can land on a website that ticks off all the boxes for design elements that adhere to best practices, yet still miss the forest for the trees because they lack the element that speaks to real people.

If you don’t build on those best practices and supplement them with the conversation that people are real, and need to have a real connection with what you’re selling them, then you’ll be missing out.

Speak human.

There are countless websites loaded with quotables and catchphrases, only to completely miss out on telling the prospective buyer who they are and what they do.

That’s designing for conversion the old way — where it was all about how to break your product or service into the most digestible soundbite, or how to get a tagline that’s memorable or catchy. It’s not that those elements are wrong, they’re just not the focus anymore. UX has grown and expanded over the past several years in such a way that the customer experience could start anywhere, not just in the digital world.

So now the larger conversation has pivoted to account for that shift and focuses on speaking more naturally and in a manner that communicates identity and purpose because that’s how most people will relate to you. The framework that now underpins designing for conversion is about establishing that connection with the user, and then adding in those extra layers later (such as catchy copy or cool graphics) to help compliment the UX.

Best Practices for designing for conversion

Here are some more helpful principles provided by Cole for you to keep in mind when using conversion-centered design for your website.

1. create a solid sitemap

A great website (and UX designer) begins with a sitemap. Sitemaps define which pages will exist on the site and how they’re ordered. They’re also the first look at how a converting user will flow through the website. You’ll want to provide all the pages a converting user may be interested in referencing before making his or her decision, and order them in a way that makes the most sense based on their needs and concerns.

2. brainstorm content indexes

Content indexes are a more detailed layer of a sitemap. Once you know the structure and flow of the website, you’ll want to brainstorm what content will live on each page and how it will work together to meet user needs and goals. This is also where you begin imagining layout and where things like calls to action will live in the design.

3. Build out a wireframe.

Wireframing is the first stage of designing the visual elements of a website. Almost like a blueprint an architect would use, a wireframe is the bare bones shell of each page that will later be filled in with color, images, and copy. For now, you’ll just look at the layout and hierarchy of site sections. Notice how the conversion flow of the website will take physical form: where calls to action go, how sections will link to other pages, what the forms will look like, etc. Test this shell with users and stakeholders to see if it makes sense.

4. Don’t ignore the landing page.

The landing page is the first page that appears after a user clicks on an SEO-optimized search result. Think of it as the destination to which you want to drive your traffic. Sure, it’s nice getting people to your desired web page, but optimizing it with conversion-centered design is the way you keep them there.

Luckily, it’s easy to ensure that your landing page is optimized for conversion. To learn how to optimize your landing page, refer to the 7 key principles of conversion:

  • Encapsulation
  • Contrast and color
  • Directional cues
  • White space
  • Urgency and scarcity
  • Try before you buy
  • Social proof

Still have questions about conversion-centered design? It’s okay, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Check out some of these common FAQs to learn more.

FAQs about designing for conversion

What does conversion mean in design?

In web design, or UX design, conversion means leading people to your goal through thoughtful and calculated choices. For example, you might design a page to guide people to click a certain button, subscribe to a newsletter, etc. Designing for conversion is all about getting your audience to take the action you want them to take.

Which principles are important when using conversion-centered design for your website?

  1. Create a solid sitemap
  2. Brainstorm content indexes
  3. Build out a wireframe

What is conversion focused?

“Conversion-focused,” especially in web design, means that whatever is being created, is being created with the intent of motivating whoever interacts with it to do a desired goal.

Prioritizing Conversion with Marketwake

The beautiful thing about working with a holistic digital marketing agency like Marketwake is that we approach websites with a broad perspective. When we start designing for conversion, we begin by outlining your company goals and your target audience, then we create a boutique strategy with those considerations leading the way. This helps prevent blind spots and produces much better results than simply using a universal template that may or may not work for you.

It’s so crucial to have these important conversations before we even start talking about conversion-centered design — it’s what we do day in and day out. The conversation will feel very different compared to working with a website-specific design agency because we focus on that bigger picture. At Marketwake, we realize that the website isn’t the “end-all, be-all” - there are other elements at play that need to be considered that will most likely inform the design process. In the end, you’ll still get an awesome website with great UI design, but our well-edited and strong UX design strategy will ultimately give you a website that is optimized with conversion-centered design.

Feeling inspired to optimize your website with conversion-centered design? Contact us at Marketwake to start the conversation.