For anyone invested in the performance of a website, it can be all too easy to desire a magical one-fix solution when things aren’t going your way. The old motto of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies here. But, perhaps, it would be more prudent to say “if it ain’t working, don’t replace it…fix it” instead.
Here at Uprise, we engage with clients experiencing this reality frequently. By no means is it a simple problem either, as many factors can explain why a website isn’t performing or why a business is seeking to rebuild from the ground up. One thing that we know for sure is that changes can be made for the better without having to bust your budget, drain your time or lose past learnings.
Taking learnings from our own work and referencing current best practices, we’ve listed 4 key areas that you should consider when optimising your website for conversion.
1. Page Goals & Structures
How you present information and what information you present first dictates how your visitors will interpret and engage with your content and key actions.
Each page on your website should have a single goal whether that’s, for example, to get visitors to click a button and fill out a form, or if it’s simply to get users to stay on the page and engage with blog content.
By prioritising actions, you are enabling yourself to create a page structure that supports your goal, improves usability and makes it obvious to a user what it is you want them to do.
Let’s take the example of a homepage versus a campaign landing page.
The homepage is most often the first interaction with your business for a lot of visitors. It’s where you establish and communicate who you are, what problem you solve, who you can help (your customers), and how you can help them (what’s your key action?).
The structure of a homepage should therefore prioritise information that communicates this most clearly. This should include a value proposition statement (one of the first things a visitor should read) and the key aspects of your service.
On the other hand, a campaign landing page is created with the express purpose of talking to a specific audience (e.g., people that click on a paid search ad via keywords encouraging them to sign up for a service).
In this circumstance, the hierarchy of the page is determined by its main action or goal. In our example of someone clicking on an ad to sign up for a service, the most prominent element could be a sign-up form. Straight away it’s obvious to visitors how they can take action and all other distractions are removed (including navigation menus and other persistent elements that aren’t necessary).
2. Call-to-actions (CTAs)
Having a compelling call-to-action is important, but not the only thing you need to consider when determining the best way to get visitors to take action.
The CTAs you choose need to be aligned with the page goal and support the user journey as not every visitor is on the same pathway.
So what are these other considerations?
- Follow Hick’s Law, and limit the number of actions or choices available to a user to both reduce complexity and shorten the navigation pathway (and in turn, the conversion pathway).
- From a design perspective, maintain consistency for all related CTAs including the language you use, colour, and size. For primary CTAs, use contrast to make them stand out (e.g, using a different colour or adding unique animation).
- Remove redundancy and be explicit about what actions are available. This follows on from the above point about consistency – don’t let your visitors fall into the trap of clicking on seemingly two different actions that are actually the same – this can hurt the experience and be perceived in a negative way. In certain situations, this can have a positive effect, for example including contextual navigation links on an ecommerce website that allows users to navigate to related products.
- Ensure CTAs are placed at key points on the page, particularly if the page is long with a lot of content. A good example of this is integrating CTAs where it’s contextually relevant, such as at the bottom of a blog article that discusses a key benefit of your product or service. Where an action is made available can have a large bearing on whether people progress and convert or not.
3. Mobile Performance
How your website renders and performs on different devices can have a huge impact on the user experience and in turn, conversions. More often than not, the issues lie with mobile and responsive issues such as navigation inconsistencies (pages not rendering consistently), page speeds or broken interactions.
In the past, this wasn’t too much of a problem as desktop was dominant. But, as we should all know by now, that is no longer the case.
The number of global users on mobile overtook desktop back in 2014. Even here in NZ, mobile internet usage has increased by over 100% between June 2016 – June 2017. Unfortunately, it’s proving a challenge for a lot of businesses to keep up with this growing trend and to adapt to changing behaviours.
That said, it’s not something you want to be missing the action on and, as we’ve seen ourselves, poor performance and slow page speeds on mobile can hurt business.
Thankfully, there are a number of free tools out there that you can use to diagnose your website and get actionable recommendations.
A few things to look out for right now that might help you improve performance straight away:
- Reduce media size (images, video etc.) – anything you can do to reduce the file size of media will help reduce the overall page load and improve speed. Additionally, hosting larger media like videos externally on another platform will also help.
- Implement “lazy-loading” – ensure content above-the-fold loads first before content further down the page. This is particularly useful if you have a page with a lot of content.
4. A/B Testing
If, at the end of the day, a redesign of your website is required for any reason, testing changes on a smaller scale is often the best way to validate more significant improvements. Regardless, a testing programme should be a part of your wider strategy as it provides a vehicle to steer your improvements and maintain a record of your learnings.
The most common form of website testing is A/B testing: creating a “treatment” of an existing page and sending 50% of traffic to it, comparing results with that of the “control” (existing page in its current form). Implementing such tests can be very fruitful, whether they’re successful or not, for how your website can be better or for confirming what’s actually working already. They do need to be taken with a grain of salt however, as results heavily depend on their statistical validity and confidence that other factors (e.g., seasonal spikes in traffic, competitor promotions etc) haven’t polluted the test sample.
A successful testing programme also relies on research and a method for generating insights that can help you identify where your focus should turn next. This type of information is typically under your nose or at arm’s length inside your website analytics or, perhaps, in survey data or customer feedback that you’ve captured.
What should you look out for?
- Any obvious weak points in your conversion funnel and indications of where people are dropping off or leaving your website altogether.
- Observations of changing user behaviours. This might be down to factors including seasonal changes (e.g., whether to use one product or another), people entering different life stages (like marriage or buying a house), or a general sentiment that you pick up from social media (e.g., the introduction of new, competitive offers in the market).
- Data from user research and actual customer feedback. If you’re receiving consistent feedback about certain elements, then test new changes first – don’t jump ahead and make a change without validating it across a larger sample.
No website is immune to change
Although it’s tempting to play the redesign card, it can be a fateful exercise with unintended consequences.
Instead, stick to the simple things. Think about your page structures. Do they speak to an overarching goal? Are we reducing complexity for our visitors? Can people actually use our website without being frustrated every time? Is this consistent across all devices?
Websites are living and dynamic objects. Both from a point of expectation from today’s users and from a need to stay up to date with emerging technologies that inevitably impact online behaviour.
Maintain it. Test it. Challenge it. Make it work for those that you want to help.
Fraser Reeves, 13 April 2018