Before the hate mail starts rolling in, I’d like to make it clear that the point of this post is not to minimize the importance of good web design. I strongly believe design is a critical component of a successful website.
But if I were to rank the elements I’d want on a web page that needs to generate sales or leads, design is not at the top of my list.
While I hope it never becomes an either/or decision, for the sake of this exercise, if I had a gun to my head and had to pick between a site with good design and one of the factors listed below, I’d choose…
1. A Big ‘Ol Problem
Imagine this scenario: You’re at home relaxing one Sunday night. As you stroll down the hallway to get a snack in the kitchen, you walk by the basement stairs and hear water dripping. You open the door, turn on the lights and at the bottom of the stairs you see your cat floating by balanced on top of a box of Christmas lights.
After rescuing Fluffy, you head straight to the computer to find an emergency plumber. At that moment do you care about the design of the plumber’s website? Not me. I’m calling the first company I find whose website offers 24/7 emergency service and displays a phone number!
Now the Big ‘Ol Problem doesn’t have to be an emergency situation. In fact, in most cases it won’t be. Usually it’s more emotional in nature…
- Your friends have the newest, coolest smartphone on the market and you want one too.
- Your competitors are ranking higher than you in the search engines and you want to claim one of those top spots.
- You can’t spend another day looking at the cracked, stained, lime green countertops in your kitchen and need an affordable replacement option.
You’ll often hear marketers talking in terms of what’s keeping their prospects up at night. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.
You want a site that focuses squarely on the problem your prospects are having (the more urgent and desperate the problem, the better). You want a site that magnifies that problem. And you want a site that provides a unique way of solving that problem.
This is so critical because you want to sell to people who are emotionally invested in getting rid of their Big ‘Ol Problem (and, come to view your product as the solution).
Apathy is a huge deal killer.
2. A Killer Offer
To illustrate this one, let’s look at two extremes:
Let’s say I have a beautifully designed website that would make an Apple designer jealous. We’re talking a masterpiece of a site here. On it, I’m selling blades of dead grass from my yard for $1000 each.
On another site, I’m using a plain (if not downright ugly), boring template I found on the web, selected neon pink as my font color and added lots of flashing, scrolling banners to go with it. On this site I’m selling iPads for $1 each, plus free shipping.
Assuming this second offer is credible (more on that in a minute), which one is going to get more sales?
(If you’re even considering the blade of grass offer, please email me immediately to arrange payment and I’ll throw in two extra blades of grass and free overnight shipping at no additional charge!)
More than any other single factor (with the exception of getting highly qualified prospects to your site in the first place) the success of your website is about making your prospects an offer they can’t refuse.
Price is obviously a key part of the offer, but it’s really more about building value and eliminating risk.
What if in the example I gave above, I was selling a blade of dead grass for $1000 but added a John Deere riding mower, a year’s supply of organic fertilizer, and an automatic sprinkler system (including installation) as bonuses along with it? Plus you get a 60 day, no questions asked, 100% money back guarantee.
Feel differently about the strength of that offer now?
You can also use strategies like limited supplies/limited time offer, a no money down trial or different purchasing levels (think Silver, Gold, Platinum options) to make your offer more compelling and drive more sales.
Making that strong, well-crafted offer to the right audience can overcome a lot of other deficiencies on a website (or other marketing material, for that matter), including bad design.
3. The Credibility Factor
We’re all barraged by marketing everywhere we go. Because of this, the level of skepticism your prospects have about you or your products/services is sky high.
You know you have a great product/service that’s superior to your competitor’s offering.
You know you’re honest and ethical.
You know your clients are thrilled with what they get from you.
But your prospects don’t know these things.
More than that, if you just say these things are true without providing any proof, they won’t believe a word you say. They’ve been burned too many times before.
You can have a great offer, a beautiful site, solve a big ol’ problem, etc., but frankly most people won’t give a damn unless you can prove the credibility of you, your product and/or your offer.
How do you do this?
The most common way to demonstrate your credibility are testimonials and case studies. But there are plenty of other ways to do it…
- Videos of you and/or your product in action.
- Your credentials (awards won, degrees earned or other notable achievements).
- Displaying the names/logos of well known, respected people/companies who are your clients.
- Telling a good story about you, how your product was developed, etc.
- And, yes, I definitely consider good site design to be a proof element. A well laid out, professionally designed site projects far more credibility than a quickly thrown together template that uses the Comic Sans font.
Give people the proof they need to feel comfortable about doing business with you. Then give them an extra helping of proof for good measure.
4. A strong call to action with a deadline
Lastly, I want to have a strong call-to-action. But more than just telling people what action to take, I want them to have a deadline for doing it.
Last year I helped organize an online marketing conference for local business owners in St. Louis. About a month before the conference, the sale page for it went live and…well, cue the crickets. A few registrations trickled in from people with strong connections to the presenters, but that was it.
Based on initial response I thought our sales page bombed and the conference was going to be a complete failure.
But on that sales page we had a deadline (with a strong offer tied to it). Anyone who registered by February 2, exactly two weeks before the conference, was automatically entered into a drawing and was eligible to win an online marketing campaign for their business run by one of the presenters.
After a few weeks of little activity, registrations for the event surged in the 24 hours before the offer expired on February 2 as people rushed to beat the deadline. Having that date looming over people’s heads turned what looked like a big flop into a big success.
When someone comes to your page and is interested in what you’re offering, you don’t want them to leave without taking action. If they leave to go think it over, talk to their spouse/associates or consider alternatives, you lose the sale.
So give them a reason to take action NOW! It could take the form of a limited time bonus, a pending price increase, or a limited supply of product (or limited supply of your time, service).
And, along with that deadline, be crystal clear about what action you want them to take! Tell them what button to click, what form to fill out, what phone number to call, etc. ). Don’t leave any room for confusion.
Putting it All Together
So those are the 4 elements I’d pick over good design for any web page that’s gotta sell something.
And when it comes to design, in my book the best designed web pages are the ones that strategically use colors, fonts, images, layout, etc. to enhance and call attention to these 4 elements.
Put that in place and you’ve got a formula for a winning website.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Are there any other elements you’d pick over good design? Would you pick good design ahead of any (or all) of the elements listed above?
Please weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section below (and bonus points for anyone who references famous movie quotes in their response!).