5 Optimization rules to transform website performanc
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Edynamic tactical series: 5 Optimization rules to transform website performance (see number three!)

Author: Meghan Lockwood | Categories: Customer Experience

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The website is possibly the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. It is the hub around which all of your lead generation and sales efforts revolve – the place where conversion happens. As digital marketing gets more competitive, and competition for mindshare ratchets up, we expect an effectively optimized website will make or break your company’s future. (Get our new eBook with Five Optimization Rules to transform website performance here!) 

The experts agree. Forrester Research projects that U.S. online sales should hit $370 Billion by 2017, which means that 1% lift in an overall e-commerce site conversion can spell big money for your marketing ROI. For inbound and other B2B lead generation efforts, the impact is similarly impressive.

Strangely, however, while companies typically spend $92 to bring customers to their site, but only $1 to convert them, according to optimization wonks Eisenburg Holdings.

To help move your company on the road to optimization, we built this book with 5 Optimization rules we have learned studying optimization experts and implementing sites at over 300 customer projects:

  1. Focus on the reader
  2. Optimize a thought process
  3. Eliminate friction
  4. Pay attention to decision points
  5. Explain the value

Here is an excerpt from the book on Rule #3, Eliminating Friction:

One of the fastest ways to quickly improve your web pages – and consequently boost your conversion rates – is to minimize what’s wrong with them. You do this by eliminating all the friction on the page.

Friction is the major force that can drive your reader to leave your page. You can think of it as anything on your page that’s just a little bit off, that distracts or overwhelms your reader, or just makes them think, “Huh?

What does Friction look like?

The good news is that most friction is relatively easy to see. In the real world, you can see this example from the Wisconsin Register of Deeds, which includes a wide array of friction, including: confusing language and abbreviations, minimal white space, a jarring color scheme, too many buttons to click, and no clear next step.

Website Experience

In contrast, look quickly at this page from Kofax. You will notice that your eyes strain less, and you may even feel calmer looking at this page after the jarring color scheme of the page above.

 Kofax

Even though this software company provides the reader with a large amount of material on this homepage, they have organized it in a clear, logical manner that helps orient the reader, and quickly understand both what he or she is looking at and where to go next.

Three Ways to Eliminate Friction on Your Page

Side-by-side, it’s easy to see the difference between the two pages above, but it takes a little bit more insight to understand exactly what the Kofax page does right.

Here are four tips to keep in mind when trying to eliminate the friction on your page:

1. Create a Visual Hierarchy

Every element on your web page sends an unconscious cue to your reader about what is important to read on your page and what isn’t. You want your site’s visual design and site organization to add clarity and visual direction to you site. 

Use visual cues, such as the color, size and position of your page elements to help guide your readers through a controlled thought process on your page. In design terms, this is called developing a visual hierarchy.

Website Optimization

To emphasize this point, here you can see this relatively minimal page by Medium, which speaks directly to the reader, and emphasizes just two things with their visuals – the value proposition and the call to action button.

For those with an advanced eye, there are a lot of really smart optimization elements here to highlight:

  • The edges of the field of view are dark while the glowing fire in the middle of the screen shows warmth and focus.
  • They use a simple color palate to avoid distracting the reader (Experts recommend the optimal color palates for conversion should include just three or four colors).
  • The images both encircle and seem to hug both the value proposition and the Call-to-Action button in a sophisticated version of encapsulation (which we will discuss later).
  • The whole screen even seems to evoke a psychological reaction, in a reference to our caveman roots, where warmth and fire in the midst of a desert meant life and survival.

That’s a lot of smarts to put into one page! While your optimization attempts may not have quite the same nuance, the key here is to see how every element is carefully constructed to work together focus the reader’s thought process towards your conversion goal.

2. Maximize White Space

Coupled with developing a clear visual hierarchy, you want to make sure that your page provides enough white space.

Remember, there is a human at the end of your screen, and you want a website that is literally easy on the eyes. Staring at a computer screen is an inherently unnatural exercise. Think about the Register of Deeds page above. Too much color or information on the page is jarring for the reader, overwhelms them and makes it impossible for the eyes to focus.

Additionally, make sure to break up you content into very small paragraphs. This is a challenge for many marketers who are used to writing for college, or still think about putting books together the way we did on the printed page.

Think about writing in what Pratt Institute Professor Chris Collette calls writing in content chunks, rather than content blobs. A content “blob” is just difficult to read online. Make it easy for your audience by breaking it up.

3. Eliminate ALL unnecessary page elements

To help orient your reader – and avoid the dreaded “back” button click – great websites should answer three questions in rapid order:

  • Where am I? (Which usually translates into: Who is this company?)
  • What is this page/company/product about?
  • What am I supposed to do here?

Eliminate any and all page elements that distract your reader from answering those three questions – even if you like them, even if other departments think they are important or necessary. Remember the “mistake” mortgage template above the extra market scores in that scenario weren’t helpful, they were distracting.

Extraneous page elements can include:

  • Giant social media links
  • Too much copy
  • Long explanatory paragraphs
  • “About Us” copy in inappropriate places, such as a shopping cart page
  • Too many form fields

You are working to create a page that appeals to the reader, so don’t bother them by adding material that only matters to you.

4. Write copy that makes sense

Finally, friction can come in the form of online copy that is either confusing or irrelevant to the reader.

For a variety of reasons, marketers seem to put on a strange hat when they begin to write online copy, in what people call “marketing speak.”