Defining website goals ahead of design = a website driven to build your business better.
If you own a company or manage a team, it’s normal to ask “how effective are my employees to my business?” You’re probably monitoring progress, tracking performance, and expecting your business to grow because of their work. Hopefully, you view them as assets to your business.
Are you doing the same for your website? Have you considered how your website “works” as an asset to your business? Are you able to track its performance, make decisions based on data, and monitor the positive effect on your brand?
Your website is a vital piece of your business and has the ability to be your best salesperson, your best customer service rep, and your best marketing tool. But how do you know?
There are many acronym-laden terms for it: Key performance indicators (KPIs), calls-to-action (CTAs), goals, and conversions are just a few that we regularly use. Whatever the name, understanding the data points that are used to determine the ROI of your website are important.
What’s in a conversion?
The term conversion is defined as “the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another.” Apply that to your website, and we define a conversion as the point where a goal is achieved. Every website differs in “conversion point”, but the easiest way to find your conversion point is to ask yourself: what action should your customer take on the website?
A standard primary conversion is the main action you’d like for a customer to take. Perhaps you want them to buy a product, purchase a ticket, or make a donation. Any action that impacts your business financially is considered primary. A secondary conversion is an action that may not impact income, but impacts engagement or long term loyalty to your business; think newsletter signups, whitepapers, webinar registrations, etc.
If you’ve been through a website design process with us, you know that we start every project with a chat about goals. It’s important to us that we identify these conversion points with you from the start so that we’re able to design with that action in mind. We know that beautiful designs are important, but we’re also certain that form without function doesn’t lead to long-term growth for your organization.
For most websites, we work to identify 3-5 main conversion points. Too many more, and your message becomes diluted, and you risk cannibalizing clicks. We also want to avoid phantom clicks; sliders and rotators can certainly look appealing, and give you real estate to share several messages, but during heatmap tracking, we find that a majority of clicks go to sliding instead of the conversion points. Your customers have a short attention span, and we want to do what we can to capture it effectively!
In the image above you can see a large majority of clicks land on the banner rotator, instead of on calls-to-action that create business. If you’re unsure where your clicks are going, a heatmap test is a great diagnostic tool.
The 3-Clicks-or-Less Rule
Once you’ve identified what your conversion points are, it’s time to create user journey maps. The idea here is that you are able to map out the various ways that a user can navigate to action. Certainly, the homepage is the ideal spot to call out the actions, but you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for users to find those action points as they maneuver throughout your site.
A general rule of thumb that’s effective in website user journeys is to map out a plan that allows a user to find the solution to their needs within three clicks or less. Whether that’s purchasing a specific product, finding out how to register for a service, or converting to a subscriber. If your users have to use more than three clicks to find it, it’s possible they won't find it at all.
Let’s explore this theory.
Let’s say your business is a public attraction or event, like a music festival. Your primary conversion point would be to sell tickets. Maybe a secondary call to action would be to sign up to receive news or to follow the festival on Instagram. Throughout your site, these CTAs should be readily visible and featured prominently on your homepage. Sure, people will also want to see information on parking, who’s performing, what services will be available at the venue, but none of that is important if they aren’t able to easily take the intended action, like purchasing a ticket, at each step.
By designing the website with “Purchase Tickets” in mind, we’re able to make some really clear choices. For one, ensuring the primary conversion point lives in a sitewide feature like the site’s navigation menu. Second, exploring how content pages can link to the action, through buttons or sticky navigation. Third, what will help users convert on mobile? Exploring a "sticky" button across the site can help.
The extra bars and buttons on these sites act as “sticky CTAs” - they help the user take action, no matter where they are on a site.
Once we’ve taken care of the primary conversion point, how can we entice people to convert on our secondary conversions? These are often a bit higher up in the sales funnel, an action before the commitment of a ticket purchase. Maybe your users want to see who else will be announced in the lineup, or be informed of news as the show develops. By letting them know what to expect from your newsletters and Instagram page, you’re making it safe for them to “convert” pre-purchase. These are great conversion points because they allow a customer to build loyalty to your brand before purchase, while also giving you an avenue to keep them engaged once the festival is over and in the years to come.
Oftentimes, we recommend another site-wide area is used, such as the footer or pre-footer, or maybe the utility nav at the very top. These are important areas on a website but are less expensive real estate compared to the main navigation or a “sticky” CTA element that stays with the user as they scroll.
By ensuring that every conversion point can be readily accessed in three clicks or less, you’re setting your site up for high performance. Going back to thinking of your website like an employee, you’d never expect an employee to perform at a high level without having the tools they need. Your website is no different here. A plan for conversion is equally important in its success.
What if my site isn’t accessible in 3 clicks or less?
With the way that design has evolved over the years, it’s pretty standard that most website content is accessible in three clicks or less from the home page. Where it gets tricky is considering traffic that enters your site through another page. As any good SEO will tell you, ranking specific pages for their keywords is a badge of honor and can increase traffic to your site and is a key component to a great digital strategy.
However, bringing users into your website on a subpage, means that users aren’t experiencing the full brand message that your home page offers. Instead, they’re seeing specifics on a single piece of your business, which may lead to more questions. Are they able to easily find the bigger story and understand who you are? To avoid this, the three-click theory suggests that you link your website together intricately so that users can navigate through quickly.
UX experts have often tested the 3-click theory. One major conclusion to the theory, found by MarketingLand, is that users will often go past three clicks if they're still finding value - it’s the information flow that matters most. As long as you’re funneling the right information to the user, they’ll be happy to click more than three times to learn more. This is called “information scent” - as long as they believe more information is beyond the next click, they’re willing to participate and follow the journey.
With that said, it’s important to consider what value users find with each click. Dragging them along or baiting clicks will lead to less time on site and higher bounce rates. These metrics can contribute to low-quality scores which are important to avoid in your digital marketing strategy overall.
As a best practice, consider the time that users are on your site. Navigate through as a user, or have a third party walk through your site. Note if they’re able to find the action you’d like them to. If not, revisit the main navigation and links that are sitewide and consider how they can be optimized to include better calls-to-action.
Designing for Conversion
Once conversion points and content have led to a complete architectural framework for your website, you’re ready for design. This is where we get to dream and test. If we know our music festival website needs to sell tickets, and have determined that the call to action belongs in the main navigation as well as a sticky button that follows the user, next is determining how it will look on the page in relation to the rest of the design.
According to Neil Patel’s blog, more than 92% of people say visual representation is the most important influencing factor in a purchase decision. So, as you can imagine, it’s not enough just to have a button in the navigation - the design of the button, the placement, the shape, and the text are just as important!
Typically, we suggest the brightest of your brand colors as the color of CTA buttons, so that attention is captured by standing out from the rest of the content. Understanding how a design can be applied against the architecture of the site is truly where the magic happens.
One big benefit of web design over traditional marketing is that it's agile. We can test, make changes, and test again easily. It's not easy to test and replace a billboard over Broadway, but website buttons can be tracked, heatmaps can show us how users flow on the site, and changes can be implemented quickly to optimize performance. In our ongoing marketing partnerships with many clients, our team deploys button tracking and analyzes the data regularly to make sure that we've placed conversion points appropriately throughout the site, optimizing website performance.
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Does your site have the best of both worlds in conversion and design? We’d love to audit it and let you know what improvements can be made to help users find your site and convert it to customers for your organization.
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