So many websites owners have one focus and that focus is getting users to their website. They watch their analytics, and so long as the numbers are going up, they are happy. But the truth is, getting people to your site is only half the battle. (Maybe less than half.) The other half of the battle is getting your users to take the next step.

What’s the next step, you ask? That’s going to be different for different websites. But basically, it’s completing the goal for the website.

“My website doesn’t have a goal!”

If that’s the case, you need to rethink why you have a website. If you have a website, it should have a goal. Or else, why do you have one? Usually the response I get is, “So people can find me online.” And then what? They read up about your history, close their browser and go eat dinner? No, there’s a reason they’re looking for you and there’s a reason you have a website. Let’s put those two things together.

You probably want people to contact you.

If you have a business where you provide people a service, and most of the websites we do offer some form of service, then the next logical step is a contact. The reason you have a website is so people can find you and contact you.

If they follow through and contact you, then that’s considered a conversion. That’s just the completion of the goal you have set for the page. If you sell products, then a conversion is a sale. If you are a blogger, then a conversion is when someone subscribes. So step 1, figure out what your goal is.

Forget everything you know about design

Instead, what I want people to do from here on out is to focus on goal-driven websites. Forget about what looks pretty, or how fun that fancy animation is, or how great that video you paid a lot of money is. Forget all that. Instead, how do we get people to complete the goal? Here’s what not to do.

  1. Have video that starts automatically.
    Everyone hates this. Everyone. It is unanimous. If you tell me you like this, I won’t believe you. Studies have been done on this. On websites that have automatically starting video, there’s one spot on the page that gets clicked more than anywhere else. That spot? The pause button. We can put heat maps on websites that show where everyone is clicking, and when a video starts automatically, the part of the page with the most clicks is the pause button. So stop doing that. Stop doing that right now. It’s okay to have a video! We have one on our homepage. But videos should never, ever start automatically. Let your visitors choose to watch your video.
  2. Have video backgrounds
    This is a trend that needs to end. Yes, they look fancy and pretty. But guess what? They are a conversion killer. Why? Because they are a distraction. They have no purpose other than to look fancy. If video backgrounds made websites convert better, then websites advertising TV shows and movies would use them. And they don’t. Look at Netflix, Amazon Prime, AMC Theaters or Fandango. None of those sites use video backgrounds. I know it looks cool, but that’s all it does. And you are the only person that cares that it looks cool. Your customers don’t care.
  3. Putting your call-to-action below the fold.
    Does the fold still matter? If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I’ve said people understand scrolling. And they do! However, your call-to-action, whatever it is you want people to do whether it’s call you, submit a form, or buy a product, that needs to go above the fold. Conversions will be cut in half if you put your call-to-action below the fold.
  4. Have stuff in a sidebar
    Guess what, sidebars are dead. Studies have shown us that people don’t look at sidebars. So much so that Google has even stopped having it in the search results. Why? Because nobody was looking at it! Don’t hide stuff from your visitors in a sidebar, put it front and center.
  5. Have a slider
    The best place to hide your content is on slide 2! And slide 3? Almost nobody will see it. Studies have shown that replacing a slider with two side-by-side call-to-action boxes makes a HUGE impact on conversions.
  6. Have distracting animations
    Do you have stuff bouncing around, fading in, or sliding out? Does your site have all the newest trends? I have a nickname for those things… they’re called distractions. Distractions are conversion killers. Avoid them.

The question you should ask yourself when adding ANY element to your website is: “Will this change help make a sale?” If your answer isn’t immediately yes, then stop.

Make your customers happy and in return, they will make you happy

The truth of the matter is that the person who is on your website probably didn’t land there by accident. They came because they have at least some interest in what you are offering. Don’t distract them with shiny objects. If you easily give them what they came there to find, they will reward you by completing the action you want them to complete.

Truth: White space never killed a conversion!

For some reason, a lot of people are afraid of white space. Don’t fear white space! White space is good. No one will ever leave your site because they saw too much white space.

True Story: A few years ago I was contacted by an optometry office wanting a new website. They kept repeating, several times, how they wanted it to be “cutting-edge.” When it comes to optometry, I’m not sure what cutting-edge would mean. What they meant, I believe, was that they wanted all the fanciness… video backgrounds, bouncing icons, etc. They really believed that was going to give them an edge in the market because their competitors weren’t doing it.

I explained how the “cutting-edge” features they were looking for weren’t going to help them get new patients. Unfortunately, either they didn’t believe me, because they kept asking for it. Someone coming to an optometrist website is not looking for video backgrounds or bouncing icons or fancy sliders. They are looking for information. The rest is all distractions.

“But if they come to my site and it’s cutting-edge, won’t they assume that my office is cutting-edge? Won’t that make them want to come in?” Research indicates this correlation is not being made by the majority of site visitors.

In the end, I turned them away because I knew I didn’t think I was the best person for the job. Not that we couldn’t give them “cutting-edge” – but because cutting-edge has nothing to do with optometry. They would have likely spend a lot of money on a site that would have ended up without the ROI they were looking for.

Think about your sales funnel, your end goal, and plan your design accordingly. 

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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