The main purpose of an inbound website is for it to be a conversion machine. It attracts visitors, provides helpful content that speaks to their pains, and compels them to offer up their contact information in exchange to receive this life-changing content. So how does design affect an inbound website?
The problem with design in regards to inbound websites is on both sides of the fence. First, most designers are not used to thinking strategically about conversions when designing a website. Secondly, owners of websites often overlook (or are unaware of) the impact and importance of design.
According to Oli Gardner at Unbounce:
"You have to realize that traditionally, nobody has been taught to design for conversion. Graphic and web designers have been taught grid systems, typography and color theory. They've been designing for UX, for winning awards, but not for conversion."
I originally had intended to point the finger at the website owners for not employing correct inbound design, but Oli is right. It’s a shortcoming for most designers, too. Now, let me just say that of course you can have good conversion rates without considering design mindfully. However, poor design will likely lower them.
With that being said, here are three major fictions that apply to both designers and website owners that can adversely affect your inbound website ROI:
Fiction: Your website is just an appendage to your brand.
Reality: For many customers, your website is their first impression of your brand.
When you invite friends and family over to your house, what’s the first thing you do? Clean like your life depends on it! The last thing you want is your family walking in and seeing the pot of beans that’s been on the stove for a month and your dirty laundry everywhere. Similarly, you want to revamp your out-of-date website design before potential customers visit it.
Fiction: Design’s only purpose is visual and has no impact on conversion rates.
Reality: Design directs user experience, which in turn will affect conversion rates.
In the scenario above, when your family arrives at your house, a polite host invites them inside, offers them a refreshing beverage and a seat. For websites, that’s the user experience. You wouldn’t open the door and walk off, leaving them confused about what they’re supposed to do. You “show them the next step.”
Well-placed elements and strategically chosen colors on a website indicate to the visitor where they are supposed to go. Furthermore, perhaps one of the hardest design habits or expectations to break is the fear of white space. The more text and images that are included on a single page, the more likely visitors are to overlook what you actually want to stand out. It’s for them to feel overwhelmed by too many choices. When visitors are overwhelmed or confused — or have to work too hard to find the information they are looking for — they bounce, leaving any opportunity for conversion in the dust.
Fiction: It doesn’t matter what your website looks like, as long as you’re providing accurate information and helpful content.
Reality: Great design cultivates trust and gives you credibility with visitors.
What initially attracts you to anything? Whether it's your new dress, your iPad, your Corvette or even your husband or wife, it’s the appearance that caught your eye. When I hear someone make a comment implying design is just an afterthought, I roll my eyes because if your (insert whatever you own here) didn’t look the way it did, it would have never caught your attention in the first place.
The exact same thing is true with websites. When you visit a website that offers not only a poor user experience, but also looks out of date and generally unattractive, how likely are you to stay on the site to discover more about that company? A lot of trust and credibility is lost from visitors when you haven’t invested in a modern website. A current, nicely designed website gives visitors confidence in your brand. If you still don’t agree, check out this vivid story about a Yankee walking into a southern bar (and scroll down to #9). Providing information is important, but if your visitors don’t stick around to read it, then what’s the point?
There are several fictions out there about inbound web design, but if you keep conversions and user experience in mind, you’ll be on your way to making an impact with your visitors.