Creating a solid website design takes work—a lot of it. Whether you built your own site or hired someone to help you, anyone who’s ever gone through the website design process knows just how hard it can be to get a decent website design up and running.
So what do most of us do? We cut a few corners.
In the push to get their website up and live, many business owners and advertisers throw up a half-baked design and turn their attention to other, more pressing things. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but these websites often end up “out of sight, out of mind.”
And that’s where things start to go south.
You see, for most of us, our website is the lynchpin of our online marketing efforts. Whether you’re running paid search ads on Google, Instagram Ads, Facebook Ads or writing articles for your blog, most of your potential customers will end up on that crappy website you set up and haven’t ever gotten back around to.
That’s a problem, because your marketing is only as good as the page you’re sending people to. Your website has to make it easy for people to convert. Otherwise, you’ll never get the results from your marketing that you need.
So, how much money are you wasting on the wrong website design? If the site optimization results we’ve seen with our clients are any indication, it’s probably a lot more than you’d expect.
What About Best Practices?
Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “Phew, I’m in the clear, I actually put a ton of time and effort into my website design. I followed best practices and created a great experience, so I should be good, right?”
Unfortunately, even following best practices doesn’t guarantee that your website will work for your potential customers. When it comes to online advertising, the term “best practices” is something of a misnomer.
“Best practices” implies that certain principles apply to every business in every vertical. Sadly, that just isn’t the case when it comes to website design. Yes, adhering to “best practices” will probably put your website in the ballpark of decent design, but it isn’t a guarantee that your website will be designed properly for your target audience.
Why Good Website Design and Testing Matters
Whether your website was created by a web design noob (aka, you?) or an agency, if you haven’t been testing it, you’re leaving money on the table. It’s just a simple fact.
Businesses change. Markets change. Trends change. User expectations change. Even if your website was perfect when you first built it, things have changed and your site needs to change, too.
This is why conversion rate optimization (CRO) is so important. You should constantly be testing and updating your website to determine what your audience responds to best. It’s the only way to ensure that you aren’t losing money to a poor user experience.
Want proof? Let’s take a look at several case studies from tests we’ve run with our clients. Many of the results fly in the face of website design best practices, but they all make one thing very clear: if you aren’t testing your website, you’re losing money.
The Case of the Extraneous Content
One of the easiest ways to test your website design is to simply see what happens when you get rid of elements on your website. You might love that product carousel or sidebar, but if it’s a distraction to your customers, eliminating it will increase your conversion rate.
We saw this firsthand with one of our clients. This particular client sells millions of dollars of product every month, so even a small increase in their conversion rate would make a huge difference to their bottom line.
But, like most websites, they hadn’t done a whole lot of testing on their website. So, we decide to try a few existence tests on their homepage to see if there were any page elements that were hurting their conversion rates.
The test took all of 5 minutes to set up, and the winning variant increased sales by $70,000 a week. How? Simply by figuring out which elements on their homepage were distracting or confusing the client’s traffic.
The Case of the Sticky Nav Bar
People love sticky nav bars, right? They make it easy to get around your website, visit your key website pages and, ultimately, convert.
I mean, why wouldn’t you use a sticky nav bar?
Well, while that logic certainly seems sound on paper, when we tested a sticky nav bar for one of our clients, we discovered that a sticky nav bar decreased their lead volume by two-thirds.
There are a lot of possible explanations for this, but the most obvious one is that most of this client’s sales occur on mobile devices. Their users were probably distracted by the sticky header—which ate of a lot of screen space on mobile—and ended up checking out different parts of the website instead of converting.
The Case of the Useless Value Proposition
If you’re running a services business, awards can be a great way to show how dependable and skilled your team is. If you’ve got ’em, most people will tell you to put those awards front and center on your website. After all, it’s proof that you’re a great company to work with, so it can only help your conversion rate.
Unless it doesn’t.
For example, one of our clients had received numerous awards for their services business. But, when we tested to see how having those awards near the top of their home page affected their conversion rate, we discovered something surprising: removing the awards increased their conversion rate by 20%.
The reason for this increase wasn’t obvious, but displaying the awards near the top of the homepage clearly wasn’t working for their customers. And, in the end, that’s what really matters.
The Case of the Overly Aggressive CTA
Call-to-action (CTA) buttons are a great way to tell people what they should do next. If you don’t point people in the right direction, they won’t act, so most website design experts recommend putting a CTA button in your page header.
That’s all well and good…until you’re dealing with an audience that isn’t ready to buy yet.
For certain offers and audiences, leading with a strong CTA can be a big turn-off. If your audience isn’t looking to buy at the moment, coming on strong with “buy it now” CTAs can send them running for the hills.
That’s exactly what happened with one of our clients. They were trying to sell people on an educational product that most of their target audience didn’t know they needed. But, they were leading with big, bold…and very sales heavy CTAs.
It seemed a bit like overkill, so we tried changing their content to focus on the benefits of the client’s educational materials, instead of asking them to buy before they even knew what they were buying. As a result, revenue increased by almost 70%.
The Case of the Not-So-Helpful Notification
Social proof is one of the most powerful tools in an online marketer’s tool chest. When people are buying products sight-unseen or hiring companies that they’ve never met, you need to find ways to make them feel confident that they’re making a good choice.
But, while people might not believe everything that you say about your business, they’ll usually believe what other people say. That’s what makes social proof so powerful.
To capitalize on this power, marketers have come up with tons of ways to show potential customers that their businesses are trustworthy: testimonials, ratings, reviews, purchase notifications, etc.
However, things don’t always work out the way you’d expect.
For example, one of our clients runs events and was using a purchase notification pop-up ad to let people know when someone bought a ticket on the site. They were certain that it was helping their conversion rate, but we convinced them to let us test it anyway.
It didn’t take long to discover that these notifications were actually hurting their conversion rate. While the social proof was nice, it was distracting, and simply by getting rid of it increased sales by about 30 percent.
The Case of the Missing Form Fields
Read almost any article on conversion rate optimization and you’ll discover one universal truth: less form fields = higher conversion rates. In fact, we’ve given this advice ourselves in various articles.
People don’t like filling out forms, so it only stands to reason that shorter and simpler your form is, the more likely people will be to complete it, right?
That may be true as a general rule, but your website is unique. General rules don’t always apply to individual websites.
One of our clients is a home repair business that gets quite a bit of traffic to their site. To request a quote, their site visitors have to fill out a short form. Two of the fields on that form, though, seem a bit unneeded: preferred contact time and preferred contact method.
At first glance, you might think that they could remove those fields and increase their conversion rate, but it turns out that the opposite is true. Without those fields, their conversion rate actually drops by 20%.
How could that be? Well, while these fields seem unnecessary, they help potential customers feel like the company values their clients’ time and wants to contact them in the best way possible. That creates a lot of trust, which makes people more likely to convert…not less.
The hard thing about website design is that you never know whether or not your site is working well for your customers. If you haven’t put much time into your website design, you can bet that you’re leaving money on the table, but even if you’ve followed “best practices”, there are probably still a lot of ways you could improve things.
The only way to fix the problem is to test your website.
Of course, that means you’ll have to put more time and effort into your website, but since your website is probably at the heart of your online marketing strategy, it’ll be time well spent.
By the way, if you’re not sure where to start with testing your website, why not let us help? The stories above are just a few of the success stories we’ve had with our clients and we’d love to help you make the most of your website design. Just click here to let us know!
How important do you think good web design is? Did any of these case studies surprise you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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