How to Design a Website That Actually Converts

Most websites are nothing more than static web pages that serve as branded placeholders for companies. However, if you want your website to serve as a powerful tool for generating leads or turning traffic into customers, you have to break through the traditional approach to website design and keep conversions in mind.

The Two Primary Types of Websites

Websites typically exist to showcase a company as an authority in their given field or to get a customer to follow through with a particular action, like making a purchase. The most successful websites manage to keep up a good conversion rate while also showing authority.

In order for a company to achieve authority, their website makes customers aware of the brand and positions them as authentic and trustworthy. You can think of it as a form of digital verification.

When you have a good website, you’re legitimate. On the flip side, if you don’t have a website in this day and age, people wonder why.

Websites that are designed with authority in mind are usually heavy on aspects like logos, content, service pages, and information about the company’s history, vision, and goals. The site is used to build trust and help prospective customers properly vet the business during their search process.

Then you have websites that are designed for the primary purpose of generating conversions. In other words, the website’s goal is to get people to buy a product or book a call with a salesperson. These are action-driven websites with very specific goals and expectations.

Conversion websites include e-commerce websites where customers can make a direct purchase. You’ll also find web properties where the objective is to get a prospect to schedule an appointment on your team’s calendar.

What Makes a Website Convert?

When it comes to designing conversion websites, there’s much less margin for error compared to designing authority websites that are more theoretical in nature. You can’t just sit back and hope that people like your site. You actually have to compel them to take action and part with their resources — most often time or money. And in order to do that, you must be mindful of a couple of important factors.

Friction

Nothing prevents visitors from following through on a specific conversion goal more than friction. In fact, if you assume that 100 percent of website visitors are qualified and interested in the offer, which is only the case in theory, friction is the only thing that will prevent them from converting.

So what is it? Friction can be described as anything that makes it harder, more difficult, more confusing, or more painful for a visitor going through a conversion process on your website. It’s basically anything that makes the user experience less comfortable or gives a visitor reason to pause.

Compulsion

In an ideal world, you have a totally frictionless site. But there’s another element that’s equally important in getting a visitor to convert: compulsion. Your website has to be compelling to the individual; otherwise, they have no reason or desire to take action. You must compel them to make a decision by evoking desire, stoking flames of fear or concern, or somehow showing them that you can solve a problem or help them accomplish a very specific goal.

To summarize, a high-converting website must minimize friction and maximize compulsion. It must plant a seed of desire that compels someone to take action and reduce or eliminate any friction that stands in the way of them actually following through on that next step.

4 Conversion Optimization Tips and Tricks

Understanding the basic foundational principles behind a high-converting website and actually executing are two different things. Here are some very tactical tips you can use to get your website pointed in the right direction.

Use Custom Website Design

You have multiple options for designing a website. The fastest and cheapest option is to use one of those basic drag-and-drop website builders that you see advertised everywhere. And while these tools can help you build a simple site, they’re rarely optimized for conversions. They tend to produce websites more focused on building authority websites.

You can throw up some basic content, create a professional image, and include basic functions like contact forms. Good luck developing a true high-converting website.

The second option is to purchase a template and customize it to your liking. Again, this is fast and cost-effective, but it gives you limited options. You essentially have to fit your square peg into a round hole, which requires compromise.

The third option is to build out a custom website. While it takes a lot more planning and may cost a bit more than using one of the “pre-baked” options, custom website design is always superior. This allows you to work hand-in-hand with a website design team and architect the entire site from the ground up. Many elements can be tweaked down to the individual pixel.

Observe Hick’s Law

Have you ever heard of Hick’s Law? It states that the time it takes for someone to make a decision is directly related to the number of choices the person has. To put it more simply, more choices equals more time. And in the world of websites, more time means less conversions.

This famous research study is the perfect example. In the study, researchers set up two display tables in a supermarket. One table had 24 varieties of jam for sale. The other table had just six. In theory, the table with more varieties should sell more, as it’s more likely to have a jar that appeals to each person. However, shoppers at that display were only one-tenth as likely to buy as shoppers at the small display.

When designing your website, do your best to limit the number of choices people have. Keeping your website focused should be the goal. More specifically, each page on your website should have just one primary call-to-action.

Choose the Right Layout

The overall layout of your website is important. Through the use of heat maps and eye-tracking software, researchers have found that users browse websites in an “F” pattern. They typically start at the top left of the screen, scan over to the top right, and then work down the left-hand column of the page while occasionally glancing back to the right. Mentally overlay a large “F” over any page, and this shows you where visitors are most likely to look.

Prioritize Site Speed

Few things impact a website’s conversion rate quite like website speed. Research shows that 47% of customers expect a page to load in two seconds or less. Those that clock in at 2.4 seconds have a paltry 1.9% conversion rate.

And the numbers get worse from there. If it takes 3.3 seconds for a page to load, the average conversion rate is just 1.5%. By the time you get to 4.2 seconds, it shrinks to less than 1%.

For every one second improvement in conversions, you should expect somewhere around 2% increase in conversions. However, your results might be even stronger. It’s not uncommon for websites to experience 5-7% increases in conversions by reducing page loading speeds by just a couple of seconds.

Reduce Opt-In Friction

Whether your conversion goal is to get someone to fill out an opt-in form in exchange for a free lead magnet or you’re trying to sell a physical product on an e-commerce page, minimizing friction at the point of opt-in is very important. The best way to do this is by limiting the number of fields required to complete the required action.

Create Your High-Converting Website

High-converting websites don’t happen by accident. They require an intentional approach, thorough planning, precise execution, and a willingness to constantly test over time.

In fact, this last part may be the most important. To be successful over a period of many months and years, you have to constantly keep your eyes on the analytics and what’s happening. Based on these insights, you have to optimize and tweak individual elements. Something as simple as rewriting a headline, moving a button, or changing the color on something could be responsible for significant increases in conversions. But you won’t know this unless you track and test.

Use this article to begin thinking more strategically about designing — or redesigning — your website. Remember to work with a custom website designer and to be actively engaged throughout the process. It takes time and effort, but you can build a high-converting site!

Image Credit: CottonBro; Pexels; Thanks!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.