Rethinking four website conventions that may be harming conversion

There are four common website conventions that risk undermining your conversions, so with the framework of behavioural science it is time to challenge standard practice and rethink how best to get your visitors to take action.

1. Slider images

Marketers and designers seem to love banner images that rotate before the visitor’s eyes. I’ve heard it said that these moving images add energy and life to your website. Maybe, but they also add significantly to the effort you are asking of your visitor to see the image, read the image, absorb the im…whoops here’s the next one….see the image, read the ima…whoops, here’s the next one…

Here’s my take. Sliders are lazy marketing.

They are popular because it saves marketers having to define their value proposition in one statement – they can spread all sorts of messages across multiple banners. It also makes it easier to navigate office politics because instead of having to make a decision about a central message, the business can show off lots of different bits. But is that really best for your customer?

In my view, if you have to rely on a moving image on your website to create interest it means you are not very interesting. It means, frankly, that you haven’t done the hard yards to get into the head of your customer and design your value proposition to connect with them.

2. Call to Action buttons

Call to Action buttons are the most important moment of truth you have with your visitor – you are asking them to something – so it would make sense for these buttons to stand out, right? So why are most CTA buttons usually so difficult to spot?


Figure 1. Matching CTAs don’t help the visitor prioritise

Designers love things to look good and marketers love website colour palettes that match their brand. As a result, CTAs are usually matchy-matchy colours that look beautiful but cannot be easily seen. Frustrating for your visitor and low conversion for you. For your most important CTA buttons make sure you use contrast, use it sparingly and make it ‘pop’!

3. Phone number top right

A standard design element is to place your business phone number in the top right of your home page. I have no problem with the positioning – it is prime eyeball territory – but I do challenge the assumption that all businesses should have their phone number there at all.

If you think one of the most important things a visitor needs to do when they first land on your home page is to call you, then you can make a case for having your number. Businesses like plumbers, electricians, medical practitioners and retailers who want to drive traffic in-store would probably prioritise a phone number.

If, however, the most important thing your visitor can do is understand your value proposition, view your products, sign-up to a newsletter, or otherwise simply get to know you, then why distract them with a number they are not yet ready to call?

But, I hear you ask, what if they need to call me urgently and can’t find the number? Then you really need to work on your Contact Us page. If someone wants to call you they will commit to finding your number – make it easy for them, sure, but don’t assume that requires it to be on the top of every page.

Another reason I’ve heard cited for having a phone number is that it serves as a point of credibility, and that can be valid in some cases. I’m simply suggesting that it is worth thinking about where and why your phone number should appear and not take it as a given.

4. Social media top right

A more recent convention has been the inclusion of social media buttons (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, etc) above the fold, usually in the top right of the website.

The benefit is that these icons indicate that you are a contemporary business that is connected to today’s world – it’s a form of signalling. The problem is that you risk new visitors getting curious and clicking off your website to explore your social media – a bit like giving kids the option of staying in the library or going to the theme park – good luck getting them back anytime soon!


Figure 2. Be careful at what point you introduce distracting social media

Even if your visitor’s resist the urge to click away, the other downside of giving these icons such precious website territory is that you are adding more things to think about for your visitor. In the fleeting seconds between them landing on your site and deciding whether to explore further, you want to focus the visitor’s attention on what you can do for them and why. Only once they have engaged with you should you enrol them in your social media (for example, in the footer and/or contact us section).

In his song “White Wine in the Sun”, comedian Tim Minchin writes: “I don’t believe just because ideas are tenacious it means that they’re worthy.” And so it is with website conventions. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it is necessarily right, and too often we get suckered into imitating what others have done rather than looking at what we are really trying to get our visitors to do.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns Pty Ltd, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.



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