All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips


Clarity Trumps Persuasion – always!
January 5, 2010, 4:23 am
Filed under: customer-centered-design, Landing Page design, usability basics

I just attended a great webinar by Marketing Experiments called “Clarity Trumps Persuasion”.  If you’re not familiar with them, Marketing Experiments is a company that specializes in optimizing website landing pages, but the principles they tout are equally applicable to normal web pages.  Their main point:  poorly-designed pages that present visitors with competing objectives end up confusing cusotmers and damaging conversion rates.

A great quote from Flint McGlaughlin:  “The chief enemy to forward momentum is confusion.”  If you don’t have a clear next action on the page, you’re “bleeding revenue”. 

I’ve written earlier about our simple A/B test with a landing page where we applied some of these basic principles and improved our conversion rate by 370% (which directly translates into a 370% increase in ROI, by the way).  But we should all remember that these same principles apply to non-landing pages as well.  Yes, typical site pages may have to serve many purposes (for example, a product page need to serve those who want to find out about the product before purchase, buy the product, and service or support the product after purchase.)  That’s how we often justify having many, many links on a page like this and expecting the customer to figure out what he wants to do.  But that’s in fact the easiest way to confuse and lose the visitor. 

If, instead, those pages had very clear next steps and helped walk the cusomer down the right path, they’d be MUCH more effective.  “Clarity trumps persuasion”.  Indeed – clear pages with clear next steps will always improve customer thruput and conversion rates.

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Marketing Sherpa’s “Surprising Wins from 2009”

If you’re not familiar with Marketing Experiments or Marketing Sherpa, you should check them out.  They specialize in landing page optimization and A/B/multivariate testing, and share a lot of their findings.  They just had a short webinar “Surprising Wins from 2009:  Using insights from an uncertain economy to drive 302% growth.” 

A few key takeaways:

  1. Even if you’re a design expert, you STILL should test.  These folks know all the tips and tricks to optimize a page and get the highest clickthru possible, but even they admit that they can’t always predict the outcome, so you should always test (specifically, A/B or multivariate testing).
  2. When demand is soft, make your value rock solid.  Figure out what it is that sets you apart from your competitors and communicate it.  Communicate your value with statements that are instantly credible; use quantitative statements rather than qualitative ones.
  3. When you have fewer resources, have your page do more.  Consider asking different questions to better be able to analyze the quality of the leads (thus letting you possibly pass fewer but more qualified leads to your sales force.
  4. When customers are overwhelmed, change your focus.  One example used a popup overlay with name/email capture and “start your free xx” call-to-action, overlaid over the original homepage.  This resulted in 64% conversion improvement.
  5. Measure what matters.  Connect your results to the company’s bottom-line results — eg convert ‘# leads’ to ‘increased revenue’ or ‘increased profit’.
  6. Test radically different strategies.  Don’t just test minor wording or layout differences – you may miss the bigger opportunity.
  7. Competitive analysis is vital.  This will help ensure your PPC ads and value propositions stand out.
  8. It’s never too late to start gaining value from testing.  Again – test, test, test

They also reiterated a few good design principles for eeking out the highest clickthru possible:

  • use a dedicated landing page instead of sending people to a page on your site
  • remove unsupervised thinking – make it clear what the main objective of the page is
  • reduce friction and anxiety (long forms, confusing terms, asking for private data)
  • place testimonials close to call-to-action (best way to alleviate any anxiety)
  • clarify the value proposition and ensure continuity (carry the value proposition through from step to step, have a clear headline that reinforces whatever the offer was that led to the page
  • have credible content and include credibility indicators where appropriate
  • ensure a clear and compelling call-to-action action button (eg “get free access” instead of “click here” or, worse yet, “submit” ).  And focus focus focus – don’t have 6 alternative calls-to-action — have one
  • understand and use the typical eyepath (eg don’t put the call-to-action or primary information in the secondary right-hand area of the page)


Where’s the banana?
December 15, 2009, 4:01 am
Filed under: Landing Page design, usability basics, visual design

Landing pages are destinations for marketing campaigns — the pages that your P4P ads link to.  These pages may or may not be accessible from your core site, but they’re still critical opportunities to capture and keep your visitors.

One of the most important things a designer can do on a landing page is to ensure there’s a clear call-to-action.  After all, if you’re spending money running P4P ads or sending customer emails to drive people to your site, why would you want to just dump them onto a page and let them try to figure out what to do next?  It’s much better to know exactly what you want them to do, and make that clear and easy to do from that landing page. Including a clear call-to-action has been shown to dramatically improve the conversion rates of landing pages.

Seth Godin calls this clear call-to-action the “banana” – the un-missabile primary visual element on the page.  This is the key action you want the visitors to take — download a demo, request a quote, view a document.  Whatever the goal of the marketing campaign is should be reinforced with the design of this landing page.

In my busines, I often hear people wanting to run campaigns “just to raise awareness”.  That’s fine, but even an awareness campaign still needs to have a clear action for the customer.  If you merely drop them into the middle of your site with no direction, you’re losing an opportunity. 

So next time you’re thinking about landing pages — or any page on your site, for that matter — make sure you provide the banana.