Conversions on websites vary dramatically. A Ugandan short film producer looking for views on their embedded magnum opus. A Finnish leisure centre wanting survey replies on their plans for their gym expansion. An Islamic charity in the thick of Ramadan wanting their UK faithful to use their Zakat calculator. Whatever the requirement is, conversions are an essential part of your online presence, and if you want them to happen, you need to know the rules of behaviour, psychology, and ergonomics that come together and make people click.
Choice has often been described as a monster, consuming too much of our time for not enough gains. In the case of web design, too much choice will consume your conversions. Hick’s law, named for British psychologist William Edmund Hick, states that the more choices you give someone, the longer they will take to come to a decision.
On the face of it, that may seem obvious, and W.E. Hick did go further in his analysis, examining the logarithmic relationship between the trends, but one study found something even more concerning for web designers.
In 2000, behavioural psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper found that when they gave one group of people people a display of jams with 24 varieties, and a second group a display with only six varieties, the people in the first group were only one tenth as likely to buy anything at all than those in the second group.
The conclusion is clear. Too much choice is overwhelming. Something we need to remember in our web design processes. Filling the page with links and buttons and widgets is not only confusing, it is dissuading. Potential customers are far less likely to convert when bombarded with so many options. Keep the design simple, with negative space framing everything, and conversions become much more likely
While we might like to think otherwise, the following is statement is frustratingly and crudely true. Size does matter. When it comes to web design and optimising our sites for conversions, we need to understand this principle in full or else our digital presences may as well be URL ghosts in the ether.
Fitt’s law is a behavioural and ergonomic principle that has been understood as far back as 1954 by American psychologist Paul Morris Fitts. Despite its age predating the world wide web by several decades, it is still very much relevant to our industry today. Fitt’s law states that the time it takes to make a decision – specifically to point to and press a button either digitally or in the physical world – depends on the ratio between two factors. The distance between the pointer and the button, and the surface area of the button itself.
The implications of Fitts law for conversion design is clear. The bigger the button, the more bang for your buck. This is not an untested hypothesis. Hyundai saw a 62% increase in test drive booking and brochure downloads when they dramatically increased the size of their buttons for these options on their pages. The London luxury hotel Vineyard saw a jump of almost a third in bookings when they increased the size of their “Book Online” button. The 2012 Obama for America Campaign saw a 22% drop in unsubscription to their email list when they shrunk the link text and buried it in other words.
If you want visitors to your website to convert, make the button to do so as big and clear as is possible within reason.
The Rule of Thirds
Design principles from photography, television, painting composition, and generally speaking art more widely, also apply to the much newer and more overtly commercial principles of web design. Good design is something needed in every field, and when it is applied right, it can lead to many more conversions. In this case, the rule of importance is the rule of thirds.
When composing a photograph, a scene shot, or any other image, a three by three grid overlay is an excellent guideline to make it clear where major elements should be placed. This is why you will rarely see the horizon in a landscape drawing bisect the very middle of the frame. The line will usually fall where the lowest third ends and the middle one begins, or somewhere close by. In the same way, major vertical elements will be off to one side or the other, rather than in the middle.
This brings up the important point for web designers behind this rule. The places that get the most attention are where the lines intersect. The human eye is naturally drawn to these points on the screen, which is why in interviews or film scenes that end up close up, the character’s eyes will be right where the top horizontal third line crosses either the furthest left or right vertical and the middle one.
If you want to take advantage of natural design principles and make conversion links the first thing your page viewers are drawn to, use the rule of thirds.
Whatever services you are offering, whatever form your conversions take, you need people to take that leap. To get them to press that button, click that link, or make that purchase, follow the laws of design and your site can take you far further than you might otherwise have thought.