Web design is your silent, yet most powerful, marketing tool. For a small business, web design can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
The design of your site, its layout, functionality and content are the silent signals that move a site user to embrace your offer, or hit the back button. Even if you are not a web designer, as the owner of a small online business, you need to know what triggers on your website are persuasive and moving users to embrace your offer and which triggers are dissuading them.
This is not always easy to do when you are subjectively involved in the design process. What we tend to see and what a user might see are often very different things. It's easy to get bogged down in fonts, colors, technology and website enhancements and yet fail to persuade anyone to take action.
The ground floor of any online business can be broken down into four major goals: to increase traffic, to boost conversion, to improve return on investment and to multiply repeat business.
At any point in the business lifecycle, you need to know which one of the above levers to pull in order to see an increase. Once you have determined your objective, you need to identify the methods of execution that are going to persuade your site users and visitors to visit, convert, purchase and come back.
How to Build and Audit Persuasive Web Design
Web design is an essential component to success for each of the above steps. Here are some questions, and actionable strategies to help you increase your websites' power of persuasion.
Reflecting the Character of Your Audience
The goal in designing a website should be to reflect the character and interests of your target audience. There may be occasions when it is your character and your personality that are the product. In which case it is important to be authentic and reflect that authenticity in your web design.
But for the most part, if your goal is to win a target audience your site needs to reflect the character of that audience.
Knowing that your audience is grunge, hip hop or professional businessman or woman is going to tell you what colors to use, what visual media to employ and the style of your written content.
Question: Does the rich media, imagery, technology and character of your written content reflect the character of your audience?
In web design, we are not only searching for a way to satisfy the practical needs of the customer but also their emotional needs. These emotional needs play a dominant part in persuading your audience to invest or participate in your small business.
Reflecting the Character of Your Product
In line with reflecting the nature of your audience, your design should also reflect the nature of your product.
While ever we might like to think that we have liberated ourselves from cultural norms, the truth of the matter in marketing and in web design is that there are stereotypes.
The issue here is congruence. For better or for worse, a small business that sells wedding dresses and decides to pepper its layout with emoji is going to attract - and distract its audience.
A sports store is not a florist, is not a bank, is not a dentist.
Take Action: Incongruence breaks the cycle of persuasive design. Take time to look at your web design and ask whether it is congruent with the products or services you are offering.
Limiting Your Scope
The first item sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer, and it was arguably the beanie baby that propelled them into international fame. Amazon started out by selling books.
What many successful businesses have in common is the limited focus of the product of service in the early stages of the company's life cycle.
Overtime those offerings grew, but the focus and design of the site always lead to user to a single goal.
A lot of web design turns out to be distracting by the sheer number of offerings and calls to action, which in turn limits the rate of conversion.
I'm thinking here of things like pop-ups, sliding and multiple options which are offered to your site visitors and which ultimately freeze them in the buying cycle.
The design of your site - which is part of the marketing message that showcases the features and benefits of your product or service - should direct the site user to a single goal.
The site itself should focus on a limited number of offerings. Ideally, the design should only point to one call-to-action on each page.
What you want to avoid here is the cannibalisation of services and products through competing calls-to-action.
Take Action: Go through the major and most important pages on your website. Count the number of calls to action on each page.
If that figure exceeds three, then you have diluted the likelihood of converting your site visitors.
Simplifying the Process
While simplifying the process of interaction is critical for e-commerce websites, it is just as important to service and professional business entities.
The goal here is simple. Your web design should enable the user to achieve their purpose in the shortest number of possible steps.
There are numerous ways to shorten the purchasing or engagement cycle and consequently improve persuasion to buy. Decide which one works best for your niche and ensure it is reflected in the layout and design of your site.
Take Action: Cycle through the calls-to-action on your website. How many steps did it take to reach the user goal? How many clicks did it take?
How complicated was the process and how could you simplify the process through the design and layout of your site to minimize the chance of abandonment?
Remember, the goal of your web design should be to persuade your site visitors, clients and customers to make the purchasing decision or action that is going to increase conversion and generate a profitable return on your investment.
For the most part, people are over design tricks and gimmicks. We live in a time of information overload. The result of that overload is that people want clear, concise information and simple steps in order to accomplish their own goals.
We live in a time where less is more and small business need to know how to implement that reality into their web design.
Image from Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.