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Want to boost website conversion rates? Focus on the user experience.

Conversions are the lifeblood of any ecommerce business. Arc XP’s vice president of customer experience, Shaelyn Clements, shares how brands can improve site usability and website design to increase conversions.

scyther5 | Getty Images/iStockphoto

This article originally appeared in Digital Commerce 360′s Practical Strategies to Drive Conversion report.

Conversions are the lifeblood of any ecommerce business. For brands to convert sales, consumers need to move smoothly from product exploration to purchase. However, brands often introduce friction into the product discovery and purchasing process with their website design—causing conversions to suffer. To discuss how better understanding site usability, as well as validating design updates, help reduce friction and increase conversion rates, Digital Commerce 360 spoke with Shaelyn Clements, Vice President of Customer Experience at Arc XP.

What can brands do to increase conversion rates?

SC: First, become familiar with and use site analytics to identify where there might be issues. From there, engage in usability testing to observe real customers going through the shopping journey to better understand what drives user’s behaviors and what influences their decisions. Evaluate for site speed, content design, visual design, content relevance, and general usability. The first impression a customer has of your site is how quickly it loads. If customers are left waiting for a page to load or find your site hard to navigate, they aren’t going to wait around.

Specifically, how do content and visual design affect conversions?

Content design

SC: With content design, words matter. Messaging should be clear, succinct, and direct. Consumers are reading less so make sure your pages are scannable and use visuals where possible to help tell your story.

The increase of highly relevant content delivered by social media has created consumer expectation of customized and personalized content recommendations across all channels. Include personalized content and recommendations on your site to help consumers more easily find what they are looking for and increase your conversion opportunities.

Take a minimalist approach to offering choices. Having to make a choice, especially when there are seemingly too many, can be overwhelming. Personalization can help ease the decision-making process by surfacing the items most relevant to the consumer. Keep content minimal and highlighting the essential information and choices, while keeping access to additional information available if needed.

An element that often doesn’t get enough attention is the call-to-action (CTA). Spend time designing and testing CTAs to see what resonates most with your audience. Go beyond the copy to test for color, size, shape, and placement. Each of these elements can impact conversion rates.

Visual design

SC: When it comes to visual design, aesthetics correlate with brand perception and building user trust. Use familiar brand patterns and colors. Be consistent in element and layout usage throughout your site to build trust and minimize confusion about how users should interact with your site.

While speed to market is everything, mitigate performance risks by taking the time to prototype and test designs before building. This is particularly important with your checkout flow. What may seem like a seamless flow on paper may hold hidden friction points when going through the actual purchasing process.

Regularly following this practice will provide invaluable information on what is working and what isn’t before spending valuable developer time writing code.

What are some of the less common strategies used to boost conversions?

SC: Often people are making decisions through emotions, not necessarily logic. The importance of emotions—particularly how a person might feel when making a purchase decision – is often overlooked in site design.

When working with our clients on site design projects we talk a lot about how people might be feeling when making the purchasing decision and how the client’s site can support the customer and provide confidence.

If, for example, a consumer is making an expensive purchase, ensure you site provides all the information needed to instill confidence in their purchasing decision. Ask yourself: are we providing all the product details needed to fully evaluate the item? If the buyer changes their mind and wants to return the item, are we providing guidance on how to do so?

What are common mistakes that impact conversion rates?

SC: One of the most common mistakes is assuming that an aesthetically pleasing site or page will lead to higher conversions. While it’s generally true that aesthetics have a strong impact with creating trust, it’s important to always test design updates. This will identify the impact of site changes – what’s working and what isn’t – before undergoing expensive development changes. We also recommend using A/B split testing before rolling anything out completely.

Another common mistake is focusing on the desktop experience while letting mobile take a back seat, especially when nearly 73% of transactions are now occurring on mobile devices. When developing checkout flow, brands need to think mobile-first.

What are common mistakes that impact conversion rates?

SC: Our design and development teams use the interface design tool Figma to collaborate in a distributed work environment and easily share design concepts with clients. With Figma, we leverage plugins to evaluate designs for accessibility and create robust interactive prototypes that simulate what the experience is like—allowing us to conduct usability testing during our discovery phase.

With a strong user research and design practice at Arc XP, we begin each site design engagement with a discovery session to ensure we align with our customer’s business goals and thoroughly understand their user’s motivations and needs. Using best practices, including those I’ve mentioned here, we build user experiences that are not only validated and tested, but designed and built with performance and site speed optimized from day one.