Your customers don’t care about bells and whistles

From time to time, I will have a client come to me and ask for lots of bells and whistles. Animations, flashy things, special effects. And my question, as is my question with pretty much anything someone wants on a website is...

Why?

If the answer is "it looks cool" or some variant of that, then I will always ask you to reconsider this request. There is a time and place for bells and whistles, but the rationale behind anything that goes on your website should be that it helps drive conversions.

What is a website conversion?

A website conversion is simply when a user on your website completes a desired action. Every website should have a conversion goal, which is an action that you want your users to complete. That action could be filling out a form, buying a product, subscribing to your blog, leaving a comment, downloading a document, etc. Each website will have different goals but in the end, everything you add to your website should lead to this final destination: to grow your business.

Does the bell or whistle you're asking for do that? And if so, how?

User experience is a big deal for me, because it's user experience that drives conversions. Not flash. So when adding these types of elements to your website, ask yourself these questions?

  1. Does it distract from the content?
    I will sing this from the rooftops until I fall over - content is what people are coming to your website for. For most websites, people arrive there on purpose, not by chance, and have a specific purpose in mind when they get there. If your users are distracted, they may miss the important part of your content that drives the conversions.
  2. Is it confusing?
    Does it make sense and go with the website?
  3. Does it load slow?
    Nothing makes a user leave a website faster than a slow loading page, and bells and whistles often include a lot of javascript that can bog down a page.
  4. Is it accessible?
    Up to 20% of your users will have some kind of disability that makes website navigation more difficult. Does your flashy element hinder their experience?

The truth is, 99% of the time, your customers won't care if you had extras so long as they can find what they are looking for. Your website looking professional and having up-to-date information is 100 times more important than any flashy bell or whistle.

How to add bells and whistles that don't distract

So you aren't convinced that nobody really cares about that stuff, and you really want to add some effects. Okay, let's consider some effects that may enhance your website without causing problems.

The main goal when using effects is that they need to be used to drive user interaction, and not just "for show."

For example, if your goal is to get your users to click on a button in your call to action, adding a little animation to that button might actually be useful since it calls attention to the action you want them to perform.

Check out this fancy button. (The button doesn't actually go anywhere.)

You can use animated headlines for your content, but they should never loop. That is a huge distraction. This one works because it's gives you a single animation that draws attention to important information we want them to see, to be sure they know about a special or sale, but it doesn't distract them from taking action.

We have a on Clearance!

Subtle Changes

Notice how the headline above this changes color? It's a subtle effect that brings a little attention to the headline without too much distraction. You don't want to do this on every headline, only one you want to bring attention to. The point of doing things like this is to bring attention to something specific, not overwhelm your user with effects.

Animation on Hover

On Sale!

With this effect, you only see it when you hover over the icon. Of course, with an animation like this, it only works on a computer, since there's really no way to "hover" on a tablet or phone.

The truth is, you aren't going to lose conversions because you don't have bells or whistles, but you might if you do. Always keep in mind that the most important thing that goes on your website is content. It needs to be easy to read, thorough, and laid out in a way that's useful to the website visitor.

Never mistake flash for substance. But using it judiciously can add a little pizazz without harming your bottom line.

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