There are plenty of stunning user interfaces out there – incorporating gorgeous photography, stunning fonts and fluid navigation. But how well do they convert? No one’s arguing against websites being art, but there comes a point where the urge to be creative overwhelms common sense —
And people simply leave.
So when choosing a designer, it pays to look beyond the flashy portfolio and consider how well their beautiful new mockup will actually convert.
With that in mind, how do you know that what they’re creating isn’t just a shiny object that’s better suited for a pedestal than a page? There’s obvious a fine line between letting your designer flex their creative muscles and micromanaging them.
Follow these suggestions to walk that line with confidence and provide your designer with direction that not only gives you exactly what you want, but provides them the opportunity to hone their skills and grow their portfolio.
Incorporate Real-Life User Testing
Relying solely on your designer to do the testing is a common issue most new websites start. They need to be ready for launch, and who better to test everything out than the person (or team) who put it together?
Unfortunately, although it sounds good in theory, this can backfire tremendously when your real customers start using your site.
Think about your typical web designer. They probably have a high-end computer, are running the very latest operating system and browse the internet on a souped-up connection. They don’t represent the very cross-section of internet traffic that you’re trying to attract (unless you’re trying to reach web designers).
Doing an actual user test with your target audience will better explore opinions and ideas from the very people you want to reach. Sites like Optimal Workshop and UserTesting can help you locate users who match your criteria, from the simplest (such as moms between the ages of 24-35) to the most precise (a customer of XYZ car insurance who has an online account and an active claim).
You can even combine services – such as sending users from UserTesting.com to a layout or hypothetical navigation setup on Optimal Workshop and ask them to sort things, or where they’d expect to find certain products. Relaying these findings back to your designer will help them build a comprehensive site map and organize your content more efficiently.
When having your website reviewed, it’s important to remember that users will have a certain expectation of how easy or difficult things will be based on what’s presented in front of them on screen. Ask them to rate, on a scale of 1-10, how difficult they expected the task to be versus how difficult it actually was. This will help uncover key areas for improvement and unknown bottlenecks that can cripple even the most seemingly flawless launch.
One study, done by Jeff Sauro at Measuring Usability, wanted to find out how users would rate a variety of web-based tasks (ranging from finding the cheapest iPad on Apple.com to finding an apartment on Craigslist).
Jeff wanted to find out if there was any correlation between how difficult users thought a task would be, versus how difficult it actually was. The results are below:
As you’ll see, many of the tasks turned out to be extremely easy, while others fell short. Managing these expectations along with gathering your designer’s input will help keep your site performing at its best, long after the launch date.
Show, Don’t Tell
Finally, there’s this pervasive idea on the web that you need a long, drawn-out and detailed document outlining every possible action and outcome on your website. And while it’s good to have organized something to that degree of precision, many designers are visual creatures – meaning they learn best by having someone show them, rather than tell them, what kind of functionality should happen where.
For example, you could say, “I want information about my users the moment they interact with my content”, and most services would give you an email overview. Campaign Monitor did things a little differently:
Another example involves the layout of features. It’s popular with many sites to include flat-style icons along with statements of their goals, benefits or offers, such as the one below:
And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a simplistic, flat-style design, it does look rather bland compared to something more vivid that explains its features at-a-glance:
When it Comes to Creating a Site that Converts
Guiding your designer starts with a strong sense of what you want, along with examples that convey functionality, look and style. Add in actual user testing and feedback and a practical view of managing expectations and you’ll come away with a website that’s not only designed to impressed, but built to perform at its best. Good luck!