The design of your website has a direct impact on the number of sales conversions you achieve. But encouraging sales does not mean that you have to sacrifice good design, argues Tina Judic, MD of web marketing agency Spring Digital
In internet marketing, the conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who go from casual viewing to taking action — including registration or sales — prompted by subtle or direct requests.
So a conversion happens when you turn a website visitor into a lead and ultimately, perhaps, a sale. Without conversions, a website will not work for your business, cannot deliver any return on your investment and will kill any interest your expensive advertising generates.
A site that is built to convert can be as important as the difference between a business surviving or shutting up shop for good. Conversion should be the ultimate measure of website success — but many designers are graphic experts who prioritise the look and feel of a site over the requirement to turn visitors into customers.
To convert a visitor into a customer, a site must have clear visitor paths — the visitor must be channelled to your goal, whether that is towards a contact form, a download page or a shopping cart. Sometimes, aesthetically-pleasing design elements can get in the way of this essential process.
Sites that convert a large number of visitors into leads typically feature obvious and brightly coloured calls to action. The problem is that putting a larger than life and lime green "contact us now" button in a key place on every page of a site can be a designer's worst nightmare.
What does this mean for the design process? Aesthetic design is a very subjective process, but designing for conversion is scientific, driven by statistics and improved by testing, testing and testing.
There was a time when website gurus told us that, to be easy to use, websites had to be brash and even ugly - dominated by clunky navigation systems and obvious hyperlinks. But it is possible — and obviously preferable — to create a website with a seamless blend of stunning aesthetic design and the ultimate in conversion tactics.
Creating an aesthetically-pleasing design that gives users a clear path to conversion is relatively easy (see the Skype homepage for a great example of simple conversion-friendly design).
A good web designer ought to practise "aesthetic conversion" to create visually stunning websites that mix your conversion goals with strong design. They should design with a clear user path in mind, create appealing visuals that actually help you to meet your conversion goals and will religiously test every aspect of the design, from headlines to buttons.
Not every web designer is a master at aesthetic conversion. When it's a matter of keeping your business healthy, you should not settle for less.