You can design a website in a thousand different ways but above all your designs should convert casual viewers into loyal users and buyers. One way to do this is by incorporating conversion optimization into your website designs. Your website will only have a few seconds to capture and convert a buyer before they move on to look at something else. Conversion optimization tools improve sales from traffic that is already coming to a website. This makes conversion optimization a very good area of expertise for a website designer.

According to Stephen Pavlovich who manages the Conversion Factory, a UK- agency specializing in conversion rate optimization and conversion testing for highly competitive niches, conversion rate optimization is simple: Find out why user’s aren’t converting and fix it. Conversion optimization must also be individualized, creative and focused on ROI. In the optimization of the website we were faced with particularly difficult conversions because clients must call to order.

The first thing to determine in conversion optimization is if the conversions fall into high commitment or low commitment conversions. For example, getting someone to download a free wine application for their cell phone is a low commitment conversion whereas having them join a $1,000.00 per month wine club is a high commitment conversion. High commitment vs. low commitment can also be rated according to the amount of time a user will be required to devote to the site and how much personal information you are going to require from them. For example, Facebook requires users to constantly return and contribute making this a high commitment conversion even though the service is “free.” The higher the level of commitment the less room there is for design errors in the conversion chain. In addition, spinning the commitment into a positive for the customer is essential for high commitment conversions.

Swimming is a high commitment sport

Web designers have an instinctive sense about what is and isn’t visually appealing. This includes a feel for layouts, copy/text, images and color schemes. An experienced web designer shouldn’t discount years of experience in favor of the current fashion for generic conversion optimization techniques. Rather, conversion optimization tools can be added into the designer’s toolbox to improve the quality of your designs and increase value for your customers.

Here are 5 basic steps that can be used to consistently improve conversion rates:

1. Understand your audience and understand your client’s company and goals. It’s critical to analyze whatever data is available for both the industry and the products related to the website. This includes demographic research, industry research, competition research and product research. Simple things like using the website yourself and talking to all levels of sales and support staff can reveal flaws in the website and business structure that are often easy to fix. Some tools that will help you to do this type of research include:
Internet Time Machine
Plunkett Research
Yahoo Insights

For social media marketing research
Nielsen Online
Social Mention

2. Make extensive use of Google Analytics, Google funnels and Google’s website optimizer. All of these tools are free and they can be used to test and track the conversion rates on the website. In addition, use visual heat mapping tools before launch and post production heat mapping tools to optimize the website. These tools alone can significantly increase conversion rates. From a designer’s perspective they are also intuitive and easy to use. Some heat map Tools inlcude:

Attention Wizard
Definitive Heatmap (from Corunet, Free DIY Tool)

3. Add survey forms and solicit feedback from customers. Sometimes offering small incentives for customer feedback can pay off big for conversions. For example, something as simple as offering free shipping for items over $50.00 when a bulk of the items price point at $45.00, can kill conversion rates. As a designer you can quickly do the math in such cases and combine it with customer feedback and heat tracking to uncover a major flaw in the conversion chain. Oddly enough, sometimes just raising or lowering free shipping incentives can dramatically impact conversion rates. Tools include:


4. Prioritize problems and changes to get the best ROI for your client. Conversion optimization has become its own industry with the intense application of A/B multi-variant testing and advanced degrees in Digital Marketing Engineering. If your client has the money for such things and wants them by all means help them hire an outside consultant. However, unlimited budgets are usually rare and the better ROI you can give your client the more likely they will be to keep using your services and refer you to other clients. The best way to do this is to identify a few big problems and then test a limited number of variations using analytic tools like Google’s website optimizer. Remember that if you increase conversion rates by even just 5% there is an accumulated value that grows exponentially as the website grows.

5. Lastly, convince your client to adopt best practices for logging website traffic and data before, during and after optimization. This gives the client concrete numbers where they can see the positive results of conversion optimization. Tracking ROI is also not a bad idea because this shows the client exactly how much more money your designs have made for them. As long as you make sure to under promise and over deliver on future conversion optimization you should continue to have ecstatic clients. Clearly explain that you have fixed the biggest and most lucrative problems first and that they aren’t likely to see such dramatic gains in the future.

Web designers can no longer just design to compete with all the CMS and website templates available on the web. To keep your clients and add new ones you must make yourself indispensable to the growth of their business. Conversion optimization is one way that you can quickly improve your client’s ROI. In today’s competitive marketplace you need to sell yourself as on Online Marketing Specialist. These skills aren’t difficult to learn nor in most cases are they expensive. Marketing professionals have always been the Houdinis of the business world. They earn enormous fees because they sell themselves just as efficiently as they sell their client’s products. Designers get out there and make a little bit of this magic too!