My partner Joel Harvey is fond of saying, “My favorite part of a design is the money.” He’s been part of many a web design project. His perspective comes in response to the number of times he’s heard things like:
“I want the design to pop!”
“I want my site’s design to be groundbreaking like nothing else out there!”
“Let’s turn it up a notch on the design.”
“I want the site’s design to reflect the high value of our product.”
In and of themselves, none of the above statements are unworthy pursuits. But if your goal is to increase online sales conversion and fill your coffers to the brim, you will fall woefully short if you believe that web design alone can do the heavy lifting of convincing your visitors to take action. If increasing sales is your goal, the most important person on your split testing team is the accountant.
Designers Don’t Design for the Accountant
A while back, a client sent us a couple of different mocks of some new designs they were entertaining. They ask which one I liked. The first thing I said is I like the one that makes you the most money. Up until that time their team was arguing over color palettes, white space,and rounded edges.
When I reminded them about the bigger goal, their conversation evolved. In a clock tick, we were all discussing the quality of content on the pages rather than the design elements. When their offer and call to action were right, everyone seemed to forget about the trivia of the actual design.
Designing For Your Ego
Another client brought to us a new landing page campaign they had just launched and were baffled and disappointed by the early results. They went on to explain that they thought this was the best designed landing page they had ever done. They had just hired a new graphic designer that ‘got it’, and even the CEO was impressed with his work. One problem, their paying customers didn’t seem to agree. No doubt, the design was gorgeous. Rich colors, curvy rectangles, sexy images, even the header and body fonts were crisp and clean.
So why wasn’t this campaign working? We had them show us their most recent successful campaign. The design was a tad dated, and compared to the new landing page it looked like a high school hobbyist in the company basement eating Cheetos and suckling energy drinks.
Still, by comparing we immediately saw the problem with the new landing page. The copy on the old page was much better. The headers screamed the product’s value proposition and benefits. The body copy answered relevant questions, and helped the reader imagine themselves buying the product. The call to action button was big, bold, and in your face. The new page looked stunningly attractive but said very little.
To add insult, the hot shot designer was a minimalist and had an aversion to big gawky buttons, so his primary call to action was tiny button that blended in with the hero image, and , by design, was easy to ignore. We instructed them to use the old page copy on the new design (they had to make a few adjustments to make it all fit), and we asked the designer to create a bigger and bolder call to action button. They obliged us and that new design finally beat the old landing page.
How Much Time Are You Spending With Your Designer vs. Your Banker?
So my lesson is this. Beautiful, eye-popping design and effective, profitable web design are two different things. And it always seems easier to mistake those eye-popping designs for profitable ones. Split testing will always lead you in the right direction.
Some companies spend more on design than they do on organic SEO, and almost all companies spend more on design than on Conversion Rate Optimization. Search engine spiders don’t evaluate site design, only content and links. And I have yet to see a company design their way into a better conversion rate and better RO.
Some companies spend way more time going back and forth about a design element than they do actually testing it. Makes you wonder how far ahead of your competitors you could get if you spent more time and resources on conversion optimization and testing.
So when considering a redesign of your entire site, of a successful landing page, or even a banner ad, do the following:
- List the things about the page experience (not just he design) work. Keep those in the new design.
- What about the experience doesn’t work?
- Why do we want to change this (especially if it is working)?
- Before you launch a radically new design, test what you believe is NOT working about the current design.
Above all, use web designers that deeply understand the web and principles of conversion. Otherwise they are just an artist, and the value of an artists works usually increases only after their demise. Can you wait that long?