We're all "internet" people, right?
We've all got a grasp on how everything should work online and know exactly how websites should be designed.
But one thing I have learned over the past four years of working in the "internet world" is that online marketers are always statistical outliers when discussing UX/UI. We are never the average site visitor, and sometimes it can be near impossible to even pretend; it's too hard to break away from our intricate web browsing habits. Don't believe me? Ask your mom how she uses the internet and compare this to your own usage. I'm willing to guarantee they're drastically different.
"Create a great landing page and customers will stay on your site for hours!" is an easy statement to make, but it has also earned it's fair share of perplexed looks. So what are some of the finer details behind such a statement?
I reached out to two UX/UI folks to see what they had to say about creating better landing pages for the everyday user.
Justin Mifsud - Owner and editor of Usability Geek, a very practical UX/UI design blog. An occasional contributor for Smashing Magazine, Justin also has over 14 years experience in the industry. You can learn more about him here.
I asked them both some questions regarding how to refine landing page design from the start:
What are the first things you implement on any new landing page?Justin - I always ask "What is the objective of this landing page?" - Very often, the answer to such a question would be "to sell product A"... or "to generate a sales lead for product A" or something similar.
While this level of focus will surely come in handy, I always advise to also ask these questions this from a user's point of view. Does the landing page contain information that the user would be interested in? Does it clearly and succinctly describe the product in a language that the targeted user understands? Does it address the first questions that will pop in my users' minds when they see my landing page? ... you get the point.
People know they are using a technical medium, but still, emotional design and a personal look & feel build trust and make people feel welcomeSabina - The first things to implement on a landing page would be a clear message and a call to action to make sure people know what to do next. Besides, it is important to offer some recognition, so people know they are on the right site. This depends on where people come from and can be anything like a logo, colors, copy, or other design elements.
Also, I think it is important to add some human touches to the site. People know they are using a technical medium, but still, emotional design and a personal look & feel build trust and make people feel welcome / comfortable.
A client comes to you and wants to lower a really high bounce rate, what are the first things you look for?Justin - The high bounce rate is the result of one of 2 things - either the product is not appealing or (more likely) the message is not getting through.
Given the second scenario, I would first assess the landing page from the user's point of view. Thus, I would not recommend discussing with the client what the objective of the landing page is as I personally feel that this would bias your critique. You will find that this disassociation from the client would help you view the landing page from a user's point of view. It is only after I have made my assessment that I would meet the client and get his/her objective behind the existence of the landing page.
Second step - I would apply usability heuristics to analyse the landing page. The same principles that cause users to abandon web pages are the same ones that cause them to bounce off landing pages (multiply the effect by a factor of a 1000!). Cluttered interface, unclear message, complex language that is not understood by the target user, small fonts, a slow loading page and hundreds of other usability and user experience principles need to be adhered to.
Then there are, of course, certain user interface elements that are specific for landing pages such as lengthy pages that involve endless scrolling below the page fold, links which lead to pages outside the landing page, call-to-action buttons that reside below the page fold and having several call-to-action elements will also lead to users bouncing off.
Once the objectives and user interface flaws are identified the new landing page needs to be designed. It is imperative to conduct testing involving real users. If there is more than one variant of the new landing page, then use A/B Testing. Monitor, interpret the results, redesign, test. This process needs to be repeated (endlessly) and the bounce rate continuously monitored.
(take a peek at this guide to CRO for some great testing tips)
Sabina - The first thing would be to find out who visits the site and what these people's goals are when visiting. Most likely it is necessary to get in touch with some visitors (in person or through an online survey) to find out what people are looking for.
Design several alternatives and test which content presentation / design is most effective for the actual target groupNext thing would be to see if this information is available. In case of a high bounce rate, it's probably not available or not presented in the right way. So the next thing would be to design several alternatives and test which content presentation / design is most effective for the actual target group. It is important to keep in mind that sometimes less can be more.
What trends do you see emerging on landing pages?Justin - I think that landing pages have evolved quite a lot these past few years. In my opinion, the key trends (and most beneficial) in this evolution are modular design, less words - more media, increased usage of white space and responsive design.
Sabina - Lately, landing pages have become very simplistic. I agree with this trend. People are so overwhelmed when going online that often it becomes difficult or even impossible to filter out what's relevant. A website that has already done the 'filtering' and only offers me what I really need to know is very much appreciated. Of course, in case I do want to find out more, more advanced information should be available somewhere.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people are still making?Justin - Very often, landing pages are viewed from a marketing / sales perspective only without considering the user and that is wrong. This will inevitably have a negative impact on the user experience and consequently on the success rate of the landing page.
One of the most serious mistakes is that some landing pages have no logical sequenceFrom a structural point of view, one of the most serious mistakes is that some landing pages have no logical sequence. The analogy of the funnel comes in very handy for this one. The landing page needs to be viewed as a funnel - with the widest end at the top and the spout at the bottom. Several users will land on your landing page (top of the funnel) and you must gather them and funnel them down to a focus point (bottom of the funnel). In more concrete terminology - something at the top end of the funnel would be the benefits and description of the product. Something in the middle would be testimonials and reviews while the end of the funnel would be the call-to-action button. Very often I see landing pages which contain elements associated with the top of the funnel mixed with those for the bottom end. This confuses users and will reduce the conversion rate of that landing page.
Then there are the multitude of bad design principles such as clutter, inadequate usage of typography, etc. One particular thing that I still see and it bothers me a lot is naming the call-to-action button as "submit". Call-to-action buttons should be named after the action they represent. So if you are buying something, then name it "buy now".
Another (and perhaps the most serious) mistake people make is not testing. Unfortunately we are in 2013 and testing is still viewed as a tedious, resource-consuming exercise. And by testing I mean real user testing both as sample testing before deployment as well as live environment monitoring. Try different variants of your landing page and test them using A/B Testing. Track the results, interpret them, re-design, test and deploy .... iterate this sequence continuously and the results will come.
Sabina - The biggest mistakes are difficult to pin down in regards to content and design. What you present and how you present it depends on the people who visit your site and those who eventually consume the offered information/ take desired actions/ etc.
Basically, the biggest mistake is that a lot of websites/ designers still ignore their users and base their design decisions either on their experience or their guts. This can work - occasionally - but to be on the save side, you should always include actual users in both the conceptual and visual design phase.
Any more general advice you would offer someone on designing for user experience?Justin - Design for the user. Place your users at the centre of everything and don't try to force-feed them. If the proposition is presented with the user in mind, things will follow naturally. Keep abreast with the latest trends - the user interface will change and it is important to keep up to date with the latest design techniques and functionalities.
However do not implement them just because they are slick or because everyone else is doing that. Instead, ask yourself if this design technique or added functionality would benefit the user. Then, decide if you should implement it or not. And I cannot stress this enough - test, test and test using real users.
Sabina - When designing for the user experience it is important to look at the big picture. The visual design and the usability of a website are only small parts of the overall experience - which does not mean they become any less important.
When designing for the experience it is essential to not only know who your users are, but who they are. What are their motivations, their goals, their interests, their desires, their fears? What language do they speak? What are their values? How to they come to decisions? There is no way around getting in touch with real users and involving them in the design process.
A very special thanks to Justin and Sabina for taking the time to respond to my questions