A double dose of design is not nearly as potent as performance for a site that needs a checkup.
What does design mean to you? Since the goal of this column is to teach website owners, Internet marketers and developers how to design home pages and landing pages that meet business objectives, it’s important that we are on the same page, the same line – the same word – as we explore our latest makeover. So let me just begin this month’s column by defining the term design.
I actually have an issue with the word design. The problem is that most people automatically associate design with art. Too many website owners mistakenly assume that the definition of a well-designed website is one that looks good. Let me set the record straight: A well-designed website is one that performs. Making the site look good is often part of the process of developing a site that performs – but aesthetics are only a piece of the puzzle.
I use the phrase conversion design to describe what I do. I’ve defined conversion design as the deliberate arrangement of elements such as salesmanship, copywriting and visuals to produce an intended outcome. The idea is to encourage users to take a desired action, and the end result is always the same – increased conversions.
That leads me to a second reason for defining design. You may notice that this issue’s makeover isn’t as visually dramatic as previous columns. That’s because we wanted to focus on how simple changes (as opposed to complete visual makeovers) can go a long way toward making your home page more effective. The step-by-step changes we review in this edition of By Design are improvements that any website owner can implement. Now on to the show.
For this issue, we chose to redesign StudentDoc.com, a resource website for medical students that generates the majority of its income from CPA and CPC placements. Naoum Issa started StudentDoc.com shortly after graduating medical school because he recognized a lack of online venues dedicated to helping medical students find the information and resources they need. Naoum has developed a website full of useful resources and is generating a fair amount of traffic and income. Now what? Eventually, every successful website owner wants to take their site to the next level.
Heal Thy Site
StudentDoc.com currently provides salary information, medical test preparation and advice, a medical industry job search and a host of other features that harried med students would find essential. While most of the traffic goes directly to the lower-level pages through organic search, Naoum wants StudentDoc.com to be imprinted in the minds of young medical students. Unfortunately, his current home page just isn’t having that effect. Instead, it functions more like a site map for search engine spiders.
The challenge is to redesign the home page so that it accommodates both the visitor and the search engines. As with any website, the home page should inspire confidence and make the site’s purpose immediately clear. In this case it should also encourage return visitors so that med students who may not have an immediate need for the content offerings will be inspired to return later, like when they need to prepare for their MCAT exam or when they’re ready to look for a job to pay off those student loans.
When we showed the site to our team members, the initial reaction was, “What do they do?” When a group of people looks at your website and has to ask that question, you’re in trouble. At first glance, our group thought the site offered some sort of document services for students. Since the site has no tagline and lacks the imagery to convey that it serves the medical industry, our group assumed that doc was short for documents, not doctors; hence the name StudentDoc.
Next, the site didn’t offer much in terms of encouraging users to come back for a second or third visit. There’s no way to bookmark it, register for updates, send it to a friend or any other tool that might encourage that type of action. Adding these elements will help increase the repeat traffic the site receives.
So let’s get to our step-by-step review of the changes we made:
First, we added a nice photo of medical students. Imagery can quickly set the tone for a website. Since our brains can process images faster than text, the photo makes it clear that the site is targeting medical industry students and recent grads.
Next, we updated the logo by changing the mark. We chose an image that people will readily identify as medically oriented and added a simple, yet clear tagline under the logo: “The Medical Student’s Resource Guide.” These steps solidify the messaging and prevent any confusion about the site’s purpose.
Naoum informed us that his banners weren’t particularly strong income generators. To remedy that issue we pulled them and added text links in the top banner area and forum excerpts in place of the skyscraper (728×90) ad. These text links are a quick way for users to find popular content within the site. The potential downside to this is that it seems to make the site slightly more cluttered. In this case, however, it works because the site is highly targeted so users aren’t as quick to leave. That is a good example of how conversion design chooses performance over looks.
We kept the same general color scheme, but removed the unnecessary traces of red and made the blues a little darker. The lighter, brighter blues gave the site a fun and playful emotion, whereas the new colors give the site a stronger feeling and add to the site’s credibility.
Finally, we added a row at the top of the page to house the “get people to come back” links like Bookmark Us, Register for Updates, etc. We also added a more prominent search function. These changes will encourage one-time visitors to become regular visitors and ultimately increase site traffic and sales.
While we did make some minor graphical updates, all of our changes are simple enough for any website owner to implement. These basic elements are important to keep in mind when designing a site because they will build the foundation for further tweaks and improvements. Remember, design doesn’t have to put fashion over form. Conversion design is about bottom- line results.
Would you like to get a free home page or landing page design for your website and see it featured in this column? To be considered, send your name, company, contact information (phone, email, etc.), a brief description of your business and its goals, and, of course, your URL to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Revenue’s By Design Makeover” in the subject header.
PEDRO SOSTRE is principal and creative director at Sostre & Associates, an Internet consulting, design and development firm, which also promotes affiliate programs on its network of websites. Pedro is currently working on a book about his new concept of conversion design. For more information, visit SellNowBook.com.