Design trends always come and go. When it comes to websites, we’ve all but forgotten the era of busy page layouts from the turn of the century, and the Flash-enabled sites of the early 2000s are at best, a distant memory. Although those trends are gone, these "ancient" sites played an important role in establishing modern web elements conventions that consistently convert website visitors.
If you want to know how to convert website visitors, look to the past and use these time-tested web design elements.
Simple Website Layouts
Simplicity is quite possibly the earliest website norm ever adopted. Of course, the website developers of the early 90s didn’t make simple layouts because they thought it looked nice. It was a matter of necessity.
Remember the days without high-speed internet, listening to the dial-up noises and angering the others in your house because they couldn’t use the phone? If you remember that, then you certainly remember how slow dial-up was.
Early websites needed to be simple. Otherwise, it would have taken forever for anything to load. While simplicity was a necessity, it’s a design element that has survived the ages.
Modern technology allows for fancy, content-rich websites, but simplicity is still key to website design. Overwhelming web pages scare away potential customers and hurt your conversion rates.
People judge websites as appealing or unappealing within 1/50th of a second. Websites cluttered with images and text are proven to be less appealing than simple, clean layouts.
By removing unnecessary information from your site and making it as simple as possible, you can boost conversion rates by up to 300%.
Just like dark is the opposite of light, white space is the opposite of clutter. White space is any blank area on your website. Naturally, the more white space you have on your site, the clearer and simpler the text and images will be.
Think of the most successful website in the world: Google. What does the homepage look like? Just a logo, search bar, and nothing but white space. It’s straightforward, easy to use, and, most importantly, simple.
Website space is cheap, so don’t be afraid to use plenty of white space to simplify your site.
You’ve heard the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Well, it also goes for the elements on your webpage.
When building a web page, think about your goals. Which elements do you want people to see or interact with? Rank them from most important to least important and use visual hierarchy strategies to draw your users’ attention.
Size of the Elements
Bigger things get more attention. If there’s a piece of information, button, or picture you don’t want website visitors to ignore, make it big. Large, high contrast elements can often break typical scanning patterns and catch a user’s attention right away.
High Contrast and Bold Colors
You’ve used a highlighter before. Bright colors and stark contrast catch people’s attention. To really make elements stand out, put bright colors on a dark background. Nobody can miss a cue like that!
Font Weight and Formatting
If you want to emphasize specific text in a large block, you can’t just make a few words 100-point and bright red. It has to look cohesive with the rest of the text, with a little added oomph.
Use text formatting like bold, italics, underlines, or even font changes to make important text stand out without being overwhelming. This can help you establish a visual hierarchy within a text block.
Headings and Subheadings
Nobody reads websites in their entirety. Most users scan web pages to find the information they want. So, design your website with that in mind.
For text-based web pages, users tend to scan in an F-pattern. They start by reading the top of the page from left to right. Then, they go down the left side of the page to the next heading and read that. After determining what the page is about, they scan a vertical line down the page to find the specific information that interests them.
For those following along, the scanning pattern forms the shape of an “F.”
Knowing that people scan first, organize your information with headings and subheadings to create a clear, scannable visual hierarchy. If someone catches an interesting subheading while scanning down the stem of the “F,” they’re more likely to stop and read the information.
Maybe big and bold isn’t your thing. Some brands, like Apple or Google, prefer to keep things minimal and clean. So, how do you establish a visual hierarchy without bright, bold elements? With more space.
If you surround elements with lots of white space, users will be drawn to the content. This establishes a clear, visual hierarchy.
Keep Choices to a Minimum – Hick’s Law
The more decisions available, the longer it’ll take for someone to act.
This is Hick’s Law. It was proposed in 1952, long before the internet was around, but it’s extremely applicable in web design and a fundamental element that has certainly stood the test of time.
Many brands offer dozens of products and services for people to choose from, but that doesn’t mean you should overwhelm website visitors with all of them at once. If you present too many choices right away, many users won’t choose any at all.
Present a single, clear choice to take users to the next step. From there, you can narrow down the search to even more specific options until the user gets to where he or she needs to go.
Take Amazon for example. They offer millions of products (choices), but everything isn’t listed all at once. Imagine how overwhelming that would be. The navigation breaks items into categories. When you click on a category, more options appear to narrow the search even further.
In other words, it’s much better to offer three two-option choices than six choices all at once. If you want to know how to convert website visitors, apply Hick’s Law to your web design so that prospects can navigate down the sales funnel much faster and with less frustration.
Time-Tested Web Design Elements
The best conversion strategies are the ones that prove themselves over and over again. Learn from the past and include these web design elements in your website for a timeless design that will generate conversions for years to come.