Let me tell you an
inconvenient truth —
your baby is ugly. Your
landing page has severe
and fundamental problems
that are contributing to
low conversion rates.
This is costing you a lot
of money. To make matters
worse, this predicament
was completely avoidable.
Worse yet, you have been a
willing accomplice in your
How did this happen?
You were led down this path by your internal creative
team or outside interactive agency. Because of the limitations
of their unique perspective you have been forced to sacrifice
conversions in the name of “coolness.” So, you have actually
come to think that your baby is quite beautiful and have, in
fact, grown very fond of it.
Let’s take a look at the origins of this situation, and begin
with the end in mind. The “end” should be fairly obvious —
to have the most efficient landing page or process possible.
This requires putting aside your own corporate and personal
needs — instead considering everything from the perspective
of your site visitors. Only they matter, and without them
you would not have a business.
The key to effective landing page
design is clarity.
The purpose of your landing page must be clear. The visitor
should be focused on taking a simple path leading to the desired
conversion action. This simple path should arise out of
the Zen-like stillness of your landing page.
Unfortunately, many landing pages are at the opposite
end of the spectrum from this desired state. They are a visual
assault on the senses, forcing the visitor to determine what
(if any) of the many striking visual elements on the page are
Graphic designers are rarely trained in maximizing conversion.
The best ones pride themselves on their ability to be
non-conformists, and their ability to “think outside the box.”
They are bored with standard production-oriented graphic
design work and like to keep themselves entertained by doing
something new and interesting on every project. Unfortunately,
the goal of the design is often lost, resulting in these
chaotic landing pages.
Here is a short list of the more common visual transgressions
found on landing pages:
Wild background colors — Many landing pages use
dark and dramatic color themes. Often, large sections of the
page or entire backgrounds are black or fully-saturated bright
colors. These color choices often create a dark and brooding
atmosphere, or imply something so exotic that it would only
appeal to teenage male adrenaline junkies who play too many
Garish text — Page text and headlines are haphazardly
placed on the page and often use very large font in high-contrast
colors. Font sizes are often enormous, and are further
emphasized by the use of edging effects, drop shadows, color
transitions and fades, and fill patterns.
Visual embellishments and flourishes — Even
simple page elements such as box edges are emphasized with
drop shadows, glow, or other effects. Simple round disks in
bullet lists are replaced by colorful graphical checkmarks or
other icons. A neutral background space to the sides of the
landing page is often filled in with intricate patterns or photographic
Animation or video—All other design mistakes on the
landing page pale in comparison to the aggressive use of motion,
animation, and video. Images and text pulsate or revolve,
image slideshows use wild fly-in transition effects,
intricate animation sequences draw the eye, and full-motion
video auto-plays on the page. These attention-grabbing tactics
are very powerful. Unfortunately, they are rarely tied to
the desired conversion goal on the landing page and only
serve to squander a few precious seconds of limited visitor attention.
Never deploy rich media on your page without first
testing to determine its impact on conversion.
Case Study — CREDO Mobile:
Our client CREDO Mobile is a socially-conscious mobile
phone company based in San Francisco. They donate a portion
of all revenues to progressive causes — groups that CREDO
members help select.
CREDO was interested in improving the performance of a
landing page for a new e-mail campaign. The original page is
shown in figure A.
CREDO asked SiteTuners conduct an Express Review of
their landing page in order to identify major conversion issues.
After the review, they created a series of increasingly-refined redesigns
that incorporated our best-practices recommendations
and additional ongoing consulting feedback. The final landing
page is shown in figure B.
The results were stunning. In a head-to-head test the new
page performed 84 percent better than the original.
Why the radical difference?
It can be argued that the landing pages are similar. Both
show a single image of a phone and a distinct call-toaction
In order to answer this question SiteTuners employed advanced
AttentionWizard.com attention-simulation capabilities.
Using software and by understanding the way the brain
and visual perception system works, it is possible to accurately
simulate how a Web page will be viewed during the first few
seconds of eye movement, and where attention will be focused.
The results are instant and do not require expensive eye-tracking
studies, or page-tagging and time-consuming data gathering
to create mouse-tracking heatmaps. “Attention heatmaps”
can even be created based on in-progress visual mock-ups that
have not been deployed as live pages.
The “before” page (figure C) shows scattered eye movements
(yellow lines) that bounce all over the page. Drawn by
bright blocks of color and sharp areas of contrast, the eyes do
not find a place to settle. The colored attention heatmap likewise
shows attention spread into many areas on the page. In
the midst of all of the visual “noise” the green call-to-action
button is lost and ignored.
By contrast, the final page (figure D) shows controlled gazing
focused on the phone, and the call-to-action button. After
briefly scanning the logos of the progressive causes that
CREDO supports (‘social proof’ that provides a ‘halo effect’ by
association), the eye returned to the round offer call-out and
the phone. The call-to-action button is one of three red attention
“hot spots” on the page.
The moral of the story is clear: When it comes to landing
pages, graphic artists need to follow a minimalist visual aesthetic
that focuses on conversion and not window dressing.
The new landing page may not be exciting visually, but
that is not the objective. On a toned-down page the call-toaction
emerges from the relative stillness of the page.
“Boring” works. And it makes more money — that
should make it plenty exciting.
About the Author: Tim Ash is CEO of
optimization firm that
tools to improve
Reviews of a landing
page can quickly
conversion issues. Ash
is a frequent speaker
at Internet marketing
conferences. He is a
to several industry
websites, and is also
the author of the bestselling