Boost Conversions Through Practical Design Changes

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Design “best practices” can get flaky. In an age where small businesses can afford to use the same split testing tools that Obama used to win the last presidential election, “best practices” are really more “starting points” than “design goals.” You should definitely test design ideas, particularly for pages that get visited a lot but fail to convert visitors.  

But what about all your other pages?

After all, there’s a big leap from “you should be testing” to “you should be testing ALL YOUR PAGES.” Not to use Armageddon as a source of wisdom, but in the movie, when the president asked why they didn’t see the meteor coming, the response is something a lot of marketers will be able to relate to: “Well, our object collision budget's a million dollars. That allows us to track about 3% of the sky, and begging your pardon sir, but it's a big-ass sky.”

Realistically, most sites can afford to run tests on a handful of pages, a tiny percentage of the pages within the web site. For all pages that you do not test directly, you should follow sound design principles.

Use Irregular Shapes for Calls-to-Action

The most effective way to describe how the brain processes visual information is this: hierarchically. There are things that the brain just notices first, and it’s not that the brain chooses to, it’s just that the brain is designed that way. 

Brains will tend to notice saturated before unsaturated colors. They will notice dark things before they notice light things. And key to how you design calls to action (CTAs) is that they will notice irregular shapes before they notice regular shapes.

This, among other reasons, is why you see a lot of rounded corners for things that web sites want you to notice. See below for Target’s call to action:

Even if you have grids on your web sites, making the corners rounded can help make the CTAs pop a little, just enough to push the right kind of attention to them.

The other thing you should be doing is making sure that most of your web site is NOT using irregular shapes. Having too many irregular shapes on one page is like taking your visitor through a bazaar; with everyone screaming for attention, it’s tough to focus on one voice you need to listen to.

Use Negative Space to Prioritize

People notice larger things before they do smaller things, but realistically, there’s only so much space you can use for your call-to-action before the page gets tacky. Yes, you want the CTA to be noticed, but you also need to balance that out with the professionalism of the page design.

So if you can’t mess with the size of the button as much as you’d like, what tools do you have to emphasize the CTA using space?

Negative space.

Pages can have some clutter, but around the CTA especially, the elements should have breathing room. See below for eBay’s page:

Note how  the buttons are large, but the space around the buttons make them more noticeable. There are competing elements near the top of the page, but where your eyes need to focus, there’s plenty of space between the elements.

Irregular shapes and negative space may seem like small enough concepts to keep consistent, but it takes planning and dedication to maximize how these are used. Given that we’re predisposed to pay attention when the elements are used correctly, though, these are simple concepts that can make a big difference.

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