Here’s an interesting trivia: the first-ever website went live on August 6, 1991. Fast-forward to 2020, and there are now over 1.74 billion websites as of January! With competition as fierce as ever, it makes sense to put your best foot forward at all times if you want to stand out.
In this highly connected digital age, a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate website is one of your most valuable assets. Whether you are aware of it or not, people make snap judgments about your website.
Only 1/10th of a second is needed to create a first impression about another person. Your website is no different.
Beyond helping you create a powerful first impression, your website (and web design) serves an even greater purpose—it encourages visitors to take the next step: convert. Conversion occurs when your leads become your customers.
How Your Web Design Can Drive Sales and Conversion
A standout web design is considered a must in today’s highly visual market. How your site looks can impact how visitors perceive your site and how they will interact with your business. When working on your site as well as your e-commerce web development, keep the following in mind:
Visual appeal is more important than usability when it comes to user insight
A study looked into the effects of usability and visual appeal in terms of satisfaction with a website and user performance. In the study, participants were made to complete different tasks on websites that vary in visual appeal and usability.
Users were asked to give low usability ratings to mediocre sites and high usability ratings to visually appealing ones. User insights of websites with simple appeal were not influenced by the site’s usability, even if they’ve had a great experience on the site.
Pro tip: Invest in the help of experts when it comes to designing your website. A visually appealing site can make a world of difference when it comes to pulling users in. A great visual design may also lead to higher usability ratings. The study also found out that actual usability won’t matter as much if the overall visual appeal is low.
You need to identify and focus on a few key elements
It will only take 2.6 seconds for a visitor’s eye to land on the area of a website that will influence their first impression. A study monitored the eye movements of visitors as they scanned websites.
The data helped researchers identify how long participants focused on specific sections such as logo, images, menu, and social media icons before moving on to other parts of the site. From the data, they found out that the better the first impression, the longer the visitors stayed on a specific page.
The website section that drew the most interest from the participants are the following:
- Search box – participants focused for just 6 seconds
- Site’s main image – participants fixated for an average of 5.94 seconds
- Main navigation menu – participants spent an average of 6.44 seconds
- Written content – participants spent around 5.59 seconds
- Bottom of the website – users spent around 5.25 seconds
Pro tip: If you can provide a great first impression, you can expect visitors to stay on your page longer. Ensuring that the elements mentioned above look great can also go a long way towards ensuring visitors won’t bounce from your page right away.
Providing inspiration can help give a better first impression
A study of tourism websites indicated that inspiration-related elements had the most significant impact when it came to creating first impressions. The research suggests that visually appealing stimuli are an essential tool that can entice people to stay on the site longer.
More importantly, it can be instrumental in helping convert visitors into buyers. The study also found out that the second most significant driver is formation. Credibility came in third.
Overall, the study indicated that travelers are inspired by a destination (through inspiring imagery), they don’t like wasting mental energy figuring things out (usability), and they want to be sure the travel provider is legit (this is where credibility comes in).
Pro tip: For those selling a dream (i.e., going on a European holiday), providing inspiring photography is the leading creator of favorable first impressions.
It is recommended that you create a user-targeted and instinctive menu
When visitors feel disoriented, they can leave your site and never return. In line with this, consider what the average user expects. Often, they look for a homepage so they can navigate the site from there and not lose their way. Lastly, they would look for a contact page as many consider it the last logical step.
Pro tip: Most visitors will make a snap decision whether to stay or hit the back button based on a glance at the page they have landed on. That said, make sure your navigation bar serves its purpose and gives them the guidance they need to navigate your site with the utmost ease.
Focus on creating quality content that sells
Great content can do more than impress your visitors. At the end of the day, they can also help win the wallets of customers. Content that converts starts with proper market research. Begin by identifying your high-value customers or HVCs, then figure out how you will target them.
You need to also focus on creating customer-centric slogans and taglines that focus on capturing the attention of your target audience. The taglines should also include a compelling call-to-action and provide a clear value proposition.
Pro tip: To boost conversion, creating relevant, clear, and keyword-rich content is critical. Your content should also deliver the message with conviction and power. Engaging and persuading your target audience to take action is something you should also keep in mind when creating content.
Most people are visual so make sure you choose images that please the eye
Most people like looking at visually pleasing images. Using low photos on your site is as counterproductive as not using any images at all. When picking the most suitable images for your site, keep in mind the following:
- Using large images might cause your site to slow down significantly. On the other hand, very small images can become pixelated. Avoid using any of the two to avoid annoying or frustrating your visitors.
- While you always have the option to use stock images, they won’t do much for you if you want photos that truly stand out. In line with this, consider investing in the services of an affordable local photographer who can take bespoke images for you. It will not only do wonders for your branding, it can also help set your site apart from the rest.
- Lately, infographics have become quite popular and with good reason. They are not only creative and innovative; they also allow you to present crucial information in a light and easy-to-absorb format.
Pro tip: If you want a site that truly stands out, you need to look for unique and visually pleasing images. Looking at pictures from a visitor’s perspective can also help you pick the right photos. When looking at other sites, what images annoy you? What images give you the urge to buy?
Site speed can impact user experience significantly
The importance of having a site that loads fast cannot be overstated—unfortunately, many compromise site speed in favor of aesthetic design, nifty functionality, or more content.
However, most website visitors tend to care more about site speed than all the bells and whistles that come with the site. More importantly, over the years, page loading time has become more and more crucial when it comes to search engine rankings.
Below are some interesting statistics that highlight the importance of site speed:
- Visitors can form an impression of your site in as little as 50 milliseconds
- At least 64% of smartphone users expect sites to load in less than 4 seconds
- A 2-second delay during a transaction is all it takes for 87% of consumers to abandon a page
- At least 40% of website visitors will leave a site if it loads for more than 3 seconds
- At least 18% of buyers abandon their shopping carts when the pages load slow
Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways you can use to make your site load faster. Some of the most effective best practices include:
Use JPEG images
JPEG images can compress photographs to smaller sizes without compromising the quality. A 140k JPEG is just as visually appealing as a 1 Megabyte PNG photographs. Think of all the bandwidth you can save on one image alone!
Avoid overusing PNGs for transparency
While transparency is a great effect, you can do without the extra space PNG images require, especially for photographic images. PNGs are also known to work better for photos and logos with sharp contrast like texts.
Get rid of unnecessary metadata from the images
While unknown to many, image editors can leave tons of “junk” in the image files, including unused palettes, comments, and thumbnails. Although they can be useful to designers, they won’t have to be downloaded by site visitors. Have your designer create a backup copy for their use and run image versions using free optimizers.
Minification is the process that gets rid of the comment and extra spaces in your code. It also shortens the names of variables as well as the functions. Minified pages will render just the same while reducing the sizes of the files by 10 to 20 percent.
Minimize the number of browser requests
The more resources the browser requests to render the page, the longer it will take for the site to load. One great strategy to minimize page load time is to cut down the number of requests the page needs to make.
Enable browser caching
If page dependencies don’t change often, there should be no reason for the browser to download them repeatedly. Check with your server admin so caching can be turned on for the images.
Although browser-side caching will not speed up your page load speed, it can make a massive difference in repeat views as it knocks off 70 percent or more of the time.
While not everyone is aware of it, website design has a massive impact on sales and conversion. Start with the design tips and techniques mentioned above and watch your sales and conversions skyrocket!
About the Author
Shawn Byrne is the founder and CEO of My Biz Niche, an Arizona-based digital marketing, and web design company that has achieved superior results for their clients. Before My Biz Niche, Shawn worked for Venture Capitalists, where he built a private portfolio of e-commerce and informational websites that generate revenue through various digital marketing strategies.