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How to incorporate conversion-centered design into your website

How to incorporate conversion-centered design into your website

A website is only as effective as its ability to deliver leads. An aesthetically beautiful site is not functional if users do not immediately understand what you do, why they should contact you and how to do so. Successful sites employ a mix of attractive design, intuitive navigation and thoughtful calls to action. Here are some ways to build a website that is designed with conversion as a top priority.

1. Simplify. You are immersed in the culture and actions of your firm, and it is understandable to want to share as much about what you do with your audience as possible. But variety is the enemy of conversion. Visitors confronted with one or two options are likely to pick one, whereas those confronted with a myriad of choices are apt to give up and do nothing. Retail studies of consumer behavior have repeatedly shown that customers are more likely to make a purchase when shown only a limited selection.

Remove layout elements that compete with each other, like multiple buttons and images within the same space. Choose colors that support each other and produce an environment that is reflective of your firm's culture and personality. Be selective with the copy you present on each page and only share what you think is of value to potential clients. When you force yourself to limit the content in each section of each page, you also force yourself to evaluate what information is most important and present only the most helpful material to visitors.

2. Use design elements to showcase calls to action. Never give visitors any doubt about how to take action. Distinguish calls to action with color and contrast. White space is an excellent way to highlight a design element; give your critical links and buttons room to breathe.

Directional cues are another effective way to emphasize calls to action. A directional cue may be something as simple as placing a call to action within a logical reading sequence or using a photo in which the subjects' eyes look to the call to action. Heat mapping data shows that people look primarily at faces and eyes when scanning website graphics, and you can use this unconscious phenomenon to your advantage.

3. Present a clear hierarchy of choices. Visitors will be given a choice between many potential actions when they land on any page of your website. Some of the options you present will be necessarily informational: attorney bios, practice area information, recent blog entries and any other items you believe will help educate prospective clients, build trust, establish authority and show why you are the best choice. Compelling content helps keep visitors on your site, and the longer users stay on your site the more likely they are to convert to leads.

Your visitors will be given multiple navigation choices, but from your perspective some user actions are more valuable than others. Contacting your from directly by calling or filling out a request for a case evaluation is the highest value action, as it indicates that an individual has a clear interest in hiring your firm. Subscribing to a newsletter or downloading an ebook are also high-value actions — each give you contact information and a way to maintain a relationship with the visitor.

These high-priority actions should be the clearest choices. They should be above the scroll and be made prominent through size, contrast, negative space and other shrewd design choices. Secondary actions should be less prominent, and all other potential navigation choices should be available but considerably less conspicuous.

4. Appeal to reason and emotion. Visitors need facts to make informed choices, but hiring decisions are never based upon reason alone. Feelings and emotions sway user behavior more strongly than logic; people want to like and feel good about the professionals who will be representing them. Show visitors how your experience and knowledge provide a real benefit. Structure your content around the needs of your clients and speak directly to them. Do not be afraid to use second person pronouns and incorporate personal details. Making an emotional connection with your visitors is more valuable than dry resume information, no matter how impressive it may be.

5. Take advantage of social proof. Social proof is the psychological phenomenon that individuals tend to do things they see other groups doing. Reviews and ratings are some of the best forms of social proof an attorney website can offer. If you have clients who are willing to provide testimonials, sprinkle their comments throughout your site. Place reviews near action items and forms to encourage visitors to contact you. If you have active social profiles, link them to your site and share activity. Showing potential clients that others have enjoyed your service is a powerful form of social influence.

6. Incorporate engaging elements. For many years, studies of user behavior indicated that visitors' attention fell off sharply as they scrolled down a page. However, the infinite scrolls of social networks like Facebook and Pinterest have helped Internet users become acclimated to longer, scrolling pages. While your most important call to action should still be above the scroll, the scroll itself is no longer a thing to fear.

Pages that are sectioned horizontally and broken into easily distinguishable content areas will hold users' attention longer than those that simply incorporate paragraph after paragraph of text. Sectioning content into topic-based groupings also gives you the chance to add interactive elements like slides, animations and hidden text or graphics to each area. When visitors are given something to do as the page scrolls, the scrolling itself becomes much less relevant.

The Farmer's Park website, for example, uses animations, clickable, interactive content and contrasting colors to hold the visitor's attention through a long page. An attorney website may have to be somewhat more simplified, but can still take inspiration from sites that use engaging elements well.

Kristen Friend
Kristen Friend holds two bachelors degrees from Indiana University and an associates degreee from the International Academy of Design. As Art Director for Custom Legal Marketing, her work has been awarded Webby Honorees, WebAwards, Davey Awards, Muse Awards, W3 Awards, and many others. She is also a contributor to Entrpreneur Magazine through the Entrepreneur Leadership Network.