The mistakes killing your conversion rate

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August 27, 2012
ThumbYou probably pride yourself on being a great web designer, right? But did you know that some elements of your website designs might actually be lowering the conversion rate and revenue of your website without you knowing it? These are often just simple mistakes that can easily be fixed, yet have huge impact on your conversion rates. To understand if these mistakes might be making their way into your work, and learn how to avoid and/or correct them, here is a list of common web design mistakes that often kill website conversion rates. Let’s get started…

1: Putting call-to-actions below the page fold

First, it’s important to know the impact of the page fold, particularly for first time visitors. Why is this so critical? Your first time visitors will be quick to scan and judge your website (in as little as five seconds), and often won’t scroll very much. Therefore, if your important call-to-actions or content are below the page fold (the area that visitors can see on their browser without having to scroll) this will increase the chances of your visitors not finding what they are looking for, or not seeing what you want them to see the most. To help avoid this issue, use the great new browser size feature in Google Analytics to understand what elements of your pages can be seen above the fold in the most common screen resolution sizes, and then test moving key content and call-to-actions to higher spots. One simple tip for e-commerce sites is to make sure you repeat your checkout button in your shopping cart above the fold too.

2: Underestimating the impact of distractions

Yes, your promotional banner or images may look cool. But are you making sure that your visitor’s eyes are being drawn to the most important parts of your pages; your call-to-actions and key information? Having too many competing images or promotions can distract your visitor away from your most important button. Even more distracting are animated images, or large images including people. Mistake Image via Shutterstock To understand what your visitors are looking at on your web pages (and in what order), I highly recommend you use an eye tracking tool like AttentionWizard, GazeHawk, or even hire an eye tracker camera yourself. These will give you great insight and ideas for what to move on your pages to improve eye flow. You may be surprised to learn what your visitors are actually looking at the most on your web pages!

3: Being cool rather than usable

All web designers want to be creative and come up with new, unique and cool design elements, right? Unfortunately though, depending on how unique these are, you may be breaking web usability design standards that will increase the chances of your visitors being confused by them and leaving your website prematurely. And this therefore greatly reduces your conversion rates. For example, you may have just redesigned your navigation menu so that it’s much more interactive and very cool to look at. But as a result of this, you may have made it much harder for visitors to understand the naming conventions in your items, or made it harder to scroll through. To avoid this mistake, always test your proposed new changes using a website testing tool (not just in a usability study) to find out what your visitors think of them, and how they engage and convert differently, before pushing them live.

4: Not testing in all major browsers

One of the major causes of low conversion rates are when websites don’t function correctly or look bad on one or more of the major browsers. Even slight variations or issues in one browser version can cause your carefully crafted designs to have major implications on visitor engagement and conversion rates. So don’t just design your website to look good on Firefox, you also need to check what it looks like on Internet Explorer and Safari, and even more importantly, you need to check on Google Chrome, which is now the most popular browser. You can use tools like BrowserShots and CrossBrowserTesting to help you check your web designs for issues in various browsers.

5: Using long blocks of text

Don’t forget the influence that your website text has on your visitors. Your website has to not only look good, but your text needs to be engaging and easily readable, particularly when you are trying to get your visitors to convert for your website goals. Remember that people don’t read online the same way they read normally, they scan for content that interests them first. Therefore it’s key that you place your most important text in a few short bullet points on your key pages — this makes it much easier to scan for your visitors, and as a result often increases your engagement and conversion rates. Oops! Image via Shutterstock Go ahead and test converting some of your long blocks of text into bullet points instead, you will often get great results!

6: Variations that don't vary enough

When you are testing your new website variations (and great job for doing that!), it’s important that you make sure you create test variations that are sufficiently different. If you only make subtle changes, like slight tweaks in color or style, your visitors probably won’t notice the difference, and therefore probably won’t convert any different, consequently your conversion rates won’t increase much. Always design at least one radically different test variation for your tests, like completely changing the style of your element or the wording, and this will give you a much higher chance of seeing a winning test version that has a much higher conversion lift. The same goes for when you are designing whole new pages to test against — think radically in terms of design and layout for at least one option. You can then do follow-up testing on the winning version to increase conversion rates further.

7: Designing a one-size-fits-all website

When you are designing your website, it’s important that it solves your visitors' main needs and use cases. Instead of designing a website that tries to solve every need for every visitor simultaneously (a one-size-fits-all website), you need to be creating many variations of elements on your webpages that will better engage your visitors. You can use many leading testing tools to actually target specific content to key visitor groups, like new or repeat visitors, and this very often will increase your conversion rates as a result of this much greater engagement and relevance for the visitor.

8: Only testing what your boss wants to test

And lastly, if you are doing testing already for your new designs, a major mistake you might be making is if you are only testing what your boss or HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) wants to test. This is problematic because they often presume to know what their visitors want, and what works best, and often this can be the polar opposite of what your visitors actually want, killing potentially higher conversion rates. To avoid this mistake, instead you should always create test ideas using insights from your web analytics tool and ideas from visitor feedback surveys and usability tools. Creating tests this way instead will help you create better tests that result in higher conversion rates.

Rich Page

Rich Page is the author of ‘Website Optimization: An Hour a Day’ and has been testing and optimizing websites for over 10 years. He is a regular industry speaker, and offers a website optimization blog and services at his website. You can follow him on Twitter for tips.

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