There has been a war raging for decades now, a secret war, a war none of the general public know is going on. It’s rarely talked about outside the relevant circles, yet it affects almost all of us on a daily basis. From when we use our mobile phones to get the next little widget off Amazon Prime to when we settle in on our couches to begin yet another binge of a TV series on Netflix, this war has influenced how we go about these tasks.
The war I’m talking about isn’t a conventional, physical war based around borders (or these days, the lack thereof) and control of raw materials. It’s an online war. A digital war.
It is the war between design and conversion optimisation.
In reality, no one wants this war to be taking place. Ideally, Design and Conversion should work in beautiful harmony together to increase brand representation and promote sales. Sadly, this is rarely the case, as good design does not always make for good conversion, and vice versa.
Designers will have an image in their head of an end aesthetic that is pleasing for the user, easy to navigate, and laid out in a graceful manner. Optimisers want an end UX that drives people down the sales funnel, regardless of looks. These rarely link up, resulting in both sides scrambling in the mud to gain a few metres of ground.
It is understandable that designers want a good looking website. It’s what they do. They want to produce an end result that is interesting, engaging, beautiful and, most importantly, one that the end user remembers.
They want to win awards for their design. They want their portfolio to look good, as this is their form of a CV. What they don’t necessarily take into account is that other factors exist in the creation of a website – forces, desires, goals and the like – that impact on the design of a successful website.
Websites exist to bring in money. They exist to be used. In specific, they are about conversions. Conversions mean that the user does something, interacts in some way with the website to bring them closer to purchasing, becoming a lead, signing up to a newsletter, whatever the end goal of the website is.
That being said, it’s difficult to convert a potential customer if your website does not look the part. Poor layout and low quality design will drive away the public in droves, ultimately making your website a failure.
There does in fact exist a sweet spot between these two opposing forces. This sweet spot can be viewed as the spots that exist in the yin yang symbol, small parts of the opposing side existing within it’s opponent.
This sweet spot is a new area of design and development called “User Experience Design”, or simply UX Design for short. The principles of the matter is thus:
Remember, the user is everything. Know the user. Learn the user. Understand the user. Love the user.
As Sun Tzu said (roughly): “Know Thy User, Know Thy Business”
So how does this translate into UX?
The quickest way to make a website worse is to clutter it with more stuff. When talking about “stuff”, I’m talking about anything. Forms, image content, nav bars, you name it.
A now-common means of web design is a wireframe. This is a simple means of laying out the whole of design in such a fashion as to see where each element lies. If the wireframe is not simple, the website will not be simple.
Whatever the main point of the website is should be instantly recognisable and as in your face as possible. It is, after all, the entire reason your customer base is on your website in the first place.
Contrast your colours. Use borders. Do whatever needs to be done to make sure that it sticks out.
White space, also known as negative space, is the absence of design elements on the page. The more white space, the better.
This is due to the fact that white space does not let the eye rest on it, forcing it towards points of interest. This, in turn, forces users down a funnel that will hopefully end up in the creation of, you guessed it, money.
This article has only touched on the topic of UX, but the point should be clear: Do not forget about or underestimate the power of UX.