Conversion designer: A new kind of web designer

Darinka Kostelnik
Mar 9 · 5 min read

As a web professional, I want to master designing for my client’s business success.

The one and only metric to rule them all, conversion rate reveals the sucess of a website we designed.

In this world, where everything revolves around making money, a web design means creating a piece of interactive art with words and images that exists because a client wants the visitors to magically turn into paying customers.

That magic is called designing for conversion.

Let’s dive right in.

Everybody designs for conversion

Whether we like it or not, we designers are all conversion designers.

In today’s subscription-based economy, this means not only to gain a new user, but to keep him using the product. All that user experience design work as a pillar for a perfect, delightful and easy-to-use interface was commisioned in order to make the money rain.

Although conversion is king, it is usually an after-though. Clients would say something like “make my website more SEO-friendly” or “make my website accessible” or… "make my website make more money".

To master conversion, you cannot just plaster it over an existing design and A/B test it until your head spins.

Well… yes you can, but how about building an informed, purposeful and high-performing design from the start?

Success starts with research

Having an idea around a problem is a basic start. But that idea needs refining — here's where discovery comes in.

Talking to people is absolutely neccessery. Lots of notes and thinking, quick & dirty paper sketches and more talking. An idea about the product is eventually born.

The designer should help clients complete the discovery phase as part of the UX package.

Master your copywriting

My clients are low-to-middle-budget business owners or product creators. Copywriting is never their first thought, and it should be. I find myself in a position, where I have to literally create content out of nowhere. I have to research their business and ask many questions (for which I have a grueling questionnaire set up) to help them create a successful website.

I simply open a fresh new Google Doc and start writing.

To write copy that converts, I've mastered these simple rules:

  • Write like you talk
  • Write like you’re talking to one customer
  • Write like you're talking to a customer of that specific client
  • Shorter sentences and simple words are better
  • Headings should contain value proposition (benefits)
  • Use action words like “today” and “now” and emotional words like “genius” or “secret", "proven", "discover", "skyrocket", etc.
Triggering emotion with words

That One Liner

The foundation of messaging is the value proposition that attracts people in. It creates a reason why visitors turn into customers.

The single most important thing on a website must:

  • Explain what the product does in one short paragraph
  • Showcase the benefit, not the feature (How it helps people?)
  • Be visible on top of the landing / home page
  • Come with a Call to Action (What to do right away?)

Examples of great headlines:

https://www.drift.com/
https://basecamp.com/

Visual Design

Let me tell you now — visuals are not that important in converting visitors. The design itself is a glue, or rather a connecting tissue of all our conversion efforts.

So when we know we got the messaging right, it's time to craft a design system that will be used for creating all our pages.

Design systems or component libraries define a cohesive style

The website has to simply "feel right". It "feels right" when everything comes together:

  • The written word is cohesive with the brand
  • The colors reflect the brand
  • The font families are on point
  • The photos and graphics have the same style

You would create a completely different mashup for a kids' store and for a SaaS company.

So, now we have all the components to construct our pages and create a successful website that converts well.

Cool tips for better conversions

  • Bright colors for the buttons. Make buttons large and reduce clutter around.
  • If there’s a form involved, do not point to it with a button. Just put the form at the top of the page and make it as simple as possible, or break it into 2–3 steps.
  • Don’t just use "Submit" as a form submit text
  • "Create my account" performs better then "Create your account"
  • Social proof like testimonials and referral logos heavily increase conversion
  • Use well-known logos of companies for this effect to work
  • Add headshots of real customers
  • Do not use stock photos, ever. Always be honest. Put effort into the photoshoot to increase empathy and trust.
  • For e-commerce sites, show alternate views of each product
  • If it's relevant, before & after images add fun and engagement
  • It is shown that a lock icon added to your privacy statement increases trust and credibility.

Not-so-cool tips

Although I do not agree or like using these pressing techniques, there is no doubt they deserve a mention — they simply do work.

Among these techniques that really scream for attention are:

  • Countdown clocks ("Only 10:02:59 hours left")
  • Exit popups ("Are you leaving already?!")
  • Visitor count ("3 people are looking at this product")
  • Time or stock sensitivity ("Only 1 pair left in your size")
  • Remarketing (the website will follow you on Google or Facebook as an ad)

Use them at your will. I won't judge you. Promise.


Darinka Kostelnik

Written by

Web designer of 10+ years. Mommy and wife, pool dancer and pole player. Envato Elite author. Appeared in net magazine. Passionate about all things web.

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