A web page isn’t a flat business card or three-fold brochure with words and pictures. Successful websites are technological entities capable of displaying empathy – that’s how they garner conversions.
Beginner websites, web sites hosted by WIX and other companies that supply the web parts without the theory customers need, and web sites produced by people who skip vital steps of the process like creating user personas and doing competitive research are at risk of lacking one of the most important triggers needed to connect with people.
That missing element is designing who the website is for.
Who is Not You
Every beginner wanting to design their own website builds it based on what they like. It’s a universal habit and the most difficult one to break. You choose your favorite colors, fonts, and pictures. You put things on the web pages where you like them to go without considering user experience guidelines and principles or computer devices. Some of you truly believe that your choices for layouts are what your customers want and even though the data indicates otherwise, you refuse to change the design because you love it.
Your website is not your house.
You can put the couches and kitchen table wherever you want in your own house because you are the user. When you know you will have a gathering with additional people, the first thing you do is address their needs. You not only add more chairs and a larger table, but you start to consider seating arrangements, meeting specific needs of guests, and creating a menu that everyone will appreciate and enjoy. You leave the perspective of focusing on just you and your own existence. For guests, your responsibility is creating an experience for others to love and want to return again for more.
If you’re successful at this, your guests will remember the experiences you provided. They’ll share them and tell stories for years to come. You created experiences that made an emotional connection. The most admired hosts are those who go out of their way to make their guests feel welcome.
This is what conversions web design is about. Your conversion rates will improve when you present an experience that is intended for your website visitors rather than yourself.
Who Are You?
This is the first test I perform in every usability site audit. Why? Because it is the first question everyone has when they first land on any page of your website. This includes landing pages designed for advertising and PPC campaigns. The question should be addressed within the content itself, and immediately, near the top of the page. Who you are has to appear in text, not an image logo, so that text to voice software will relay that information to listeners. Search engines need that information.
Your company name, brand, your name if you are the focus of the website, or your organization should not only appear at the top of the page, but at least 2 more times so that this information is committed to memory by site visitors. And remember that people are easily distracted. If you want them to remember something important, remove the banner ad, animation or call to action button sitting too close by.
Who is the Site For?
Beginners are less likely to understand the depth of this question. Most site owners will say, “My site is for people who want to buy [insert product or service].” They don’t do any research to discover who those people are. This is an enormous mistake and the most common.
At the enterprise level, experienced staff will request user personas. The only possible way to truly connect to your target market is to understand them. User personas are developed as representations of specific user types. Each user persona is a composite person with a history, habits, dreams, struggles and needs. Some companies have several user personas developed for use during the design and development stages. Test cases rely on user personas. So can marketing campaigns. User personas help determine mental models, taxonomies, and keywords for organic SEO. For developers and stakeholders, they are guideposts.
However, user personas are a design device. They don’t replace user testing with real people. User testing can help validate that the user personas were properly developed and applied towards the user experience design. It’s not uncommon to find that nobody has created a special needs user persona. They also neglect older people and persons from other countries. If you are marketing to a global target market, who are they? How will you connect with them?
I Know Who You Are, and You Are Welcome Here
Years ago, my husband and I bought a new house in a new development. It was not my first experience with a newly built home. My first experience was wonderful. We fit in with the other families who had also purchased their new house. As it turned out, we were all young couples and soon the neighborhood was loaded with our children.
About to repeat that again at a different stage in life, I innocently asked the woman in charge of the paperwork, choosing the right house model, bathroom styles and color of appliances, what the other home buyers were like. I wasn’t sure we fit into an environment of young couples learning how to be parents. With me working from home, would there be someone I could make friends with who was also home during the day?
I was told we were not allowed to know. For privacy reasons, no demographic information could be given out. Seeing the look of disappointment, she smiled at me and said, “Kim, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” It turns out that she was correct. We were very surprised at the mix of people who were like us, waiting the many months for their new house to be built on the lot they chose. There were several retirees, including my neighbors across the street. On each side of us were young couples who eventually had their first baby. We are now the doting, supportive older neighbors with the adult kids still living with us, serving as a reminder that sometimes those babies never move out.
The neighborhood contains people from many countries, with different skin colors, political and religious views and professions. We have our own private Facebook Group where we share information and concerns, or complain. In three years, several homeowners left because they didn’t feel they fit in or they were unhappy with their lot or something with the house. These are people who will not recommend the neighborhood and had a bad experience.
This is what happens with websites.
When someone has a bad user experience or feels the site is not the right fit for their needs, they will not stay and may even leave a bad review. Therefore, it is so important to know who you’re designing for. You won’t please everyone or meet every need. You can, however, use different marketing techniques for following up on abandoned forms, unfinished shopping carts, customer satisfaction surveys and other devices to learn and make adjustments.
Do You Know Who I Am?
When writing content and choosing images, another common area that is neglected is identifying who the site is for. The wording is not precise. We all write “You will”, “We can” instead of “Organic vegetable lovers will” and “Green Growers can”. We all put up non-specific images where one of an actual product should go.
One way of connecting with your website visitors is to talk about how they feel. Many of our decisions are based on emotions and feelings. This is why persuasive design is fun to study and experiment with. How do you show empathy for your customers? How do you convey emotion on a one dimensional medium? Attempts so far have been animation, images, video and design techniques like parallax and 3D effects.
The use of color includes color theory and studies on what colors each gender likes, and how colors trigger a physical response in our bodies. Red, for example, increases the heart rate of website users. Blues and greens are calming colors. Content spacing, large gutters, minimal designs and button designs are all known to trigger a human reaction from website users. These are considerations that beginners are understandably unaware of. If you’re running a business online or hoping to generate revenue, everyone is a guest with needs you need to tend to.
Do You Know How I Feel?
Emotional design techniques are vital for conversions. Known as captology, the basic idea is that we like to feel that we are understood. We want to feel accepted. We need to feel we’re in the right place, with our own tribe. To design for that, we get help from the neuroscience and human factors fields because they are studying humans and computer behavior. They do eye tracking studies which provide even more insight into our brains. Everything from information architecture to sales funnels is studied.
How your target market thinks, feels, acts, dreams and makes choices are matter for conversions.
For one of my websites I have one service to try and convince my site visitors to hire me for. I used to focus on cost. Custom website reviews and site audits based on various testing methodologies are expensive. Testing at all is always at the bottom of the To Do list. What I needed to do is not focus on the cost, but rather, how it feels to own a website.
It’s a great feeling, especially when it launches. It’s exciting. It’s your baby. It might even help you pay some bills. It’s also a little scary. What if something is missing? What if someone has trouble using it? Is the form functioning? Does it load quickly?
What if nobody likes it?
I address fear and doubt on the homepage. I still need to communicate other valuable aspects like expertise and describe the service, but the connection starts with empathy. I know who needs my help.
Experiment with Who
The more you understand who your website is for, the more the design will reflect that. It will be easier to use by the people it is intended for. They will feel welcome because you literally identify them within your content.
When you understand who they are and what they need the most, they, in turn, want to know more about who you are and how you can meet their specific needs.