By - Neal Cole

4 Design Trends That Are Conversion Killers

Four trends that kill conversions

Four Conversion Killers To Avoid:

Conversion killers are often caused by designers and webmasters copying trends and ideas they see on other websites. Many of these ideas are then implemented without a proper evaluation of how they influence user behaviour and conversion rates.

Designers and webmasters often assume the sites they are copying have tested the element first. Unfortunately this is usually a false assumption. It is likely the site you are copying has no more idea of what they are doing than you do. This is why conversion killers often spread quickly as too few companies A/B test  new design fads and trends. The perceived popularity of these ideas creates what is known in psychology as the bandwagon effect.

Here I outline four design trends that are proven conversion killers and so should be avoided at all costs.

Carousels and auto-sliders:

Auto-sliders or carousels are very popular and yet almost all conversion rate optimisation experts and even the usability guru Jakob Nielsen have found they are conversion killers. Visitors dislike carousels because they lose control of the user interface and people with low literacy and international users find they don’t have enough time to finish reading the slider before it changes.

As auto-sliders move and look like banners many visitors think they are ads. This increases the chance that users will ignore them due to banner blindness. As a consequence interaction levels on many carousels are minute (less than 1%) and a majority of clicks (between 54% and 89% according to Erik Runyon) are on the first position.

Management love carousels because they don’t have to choose between different content to be displayed on the homepage. They can just increase the number of positions if they want to add new content. However, this doesn’t solve the problem and it actually makes the situation worse. Engagement levels for each position get progressively lower and so adding content to a carousel achieves nothing of value and will probably reduce your conversion rate even further.

Image of auto-slider on Next.co.uk
Image Source: Next.co.uk

Here is an example on Next.co.uk which has a slider rotating between four positions which change every four seconds. This hardly gives the user enough time to read each slide and takes away the user’s control of the interface.

Oversized Hero Images:

Hero images are an important element of any homepage because a well-chosen image can instantly communicate something relevant and engaging about the site. A problem can occur though when the hero image takes up the entire screen above the fold. Apart from pushing conversion improving content below the fold an oversize hero image can also give the impression that the page ends at the bottom of the image (i.e. a false bottom).

Oversized hero images are conversion killers because they discourage scrolling and give the impression that landing pages have little content to explore. Sometimes this is done on purpose to encourage users to click on the call-to-action.  This may be appropriate for users who already know what they want (e.g. returning visitors), but for many visitors, especially first-time visitors, they need more information before they are willing to convert. These type of visitors are more likely to bounce when faced with such an aggressive approach to conversion.

Image of Answerconnect.co.uk homepage with hero image that creates a false bottom
Image Source: Answerconnect.co.uk

On the left above you can see the hero image on Answerconnect.co.uk which takes up the entire screen. It’s easy to see how the bottom of the screen could be perceived to be the bottom of the page. There is no indication, such as a directional cues, that there is further content below the fold.

 

Hiding Navigation on Desktop Sites:

A majority of mobile sites hide navigation behind the hamburger icon because it saves space. This is despite strong evidence from both A/B tests and usability testing that they are conversion killers. This is because hiding navigation damages the user experience and reduce discoverability. Recently though I have noticed some desktop sites are also using the hamburger icon to hide their navigation.

This completely unnecessary as desktop sites don’t have the limitation of screen space that mobile sites suffer from. The example below from Cymphony.co.uk, the call answering service, breaks the strong web convention that the primary navigation should either be displayed horizontally at the top of the page or along the left-hand side of the page. Placing the hamburger icon half way down the page and on the right-hand side is likely to confuse visitors and seriously reduce discoverability.

Image of Cymphony.co.uk desktop homepage with a hamburger icon hiding the navigation
Image Source: Cymphony.co.uk

Displaying Social Media Icons on Homepage and Landing Page:

Think about it, you arrive for the first ever time on a site’s homepage or a landing page and the first thing you see are social media icons for sharing content. Are you really going to share content before you establish whether you trust the site or have made a transaction?  In 99% of cases the answer is definitely no!

So why do brands increasingly display social media icons for sharing content on their homepage or landing page? There is little benefit to this trend unless they are simply images with total shares or likes for social proof. Having social media icons that take the visitor away from the site should not be the objective of any site that is looking for a profitable action.

The evidence also suggests that social media icons displayed on pages before a purchase are conversion killers. Taloon.com , a Finish based hardware website tested removing social sharing icons on their product page. They discovered that removing social media sharing icons increased the CTA click-through rate by 11.9%.

Image of A/B test on Taloon.com product page where social media icons were removed
Image Source: VWO Blog

There are a number of possible reasons why social media icons are conversion killers. One explanation relates to what people expect when they visit a page. A product page for example encourages people to focus on purchasing merchandise and not on social sharing.  Another reason is that research shows the vast majority of people consume content (or buy a product) but don’t share the fact that they have done so on social media. People who actively create new content on social media are a small minority compared to the majority who are just ‘spectators’.

Image of Sevencapital.com homepage with social media sharing icons
Image Source: Sevencapital.com

The example above from Sevencapital.com is a landing page for buy-to-let property investments. The expectation for this page is to get visitors to provide contact details for call back and not to share on social media. It is totally inappropriate to have social sharing icons on this page. For an evaluation of real-estate landing page designs check out ‘Why is your real estate landing page not converting?

Conclusion:

You can avoid many conversion killers by experimenting first before deciding to implement new trends and novel ideas.  Stop blindly copying your competitors or other websites that you like and take a more scientific approach to decision making. If you have sufficient traffic and conversions on your website you can A/B test changes to find out how it influences conversions. If you don’t have the traffic then you can still rely on usability testing to evaluate how a design element might affect user behaviour.

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  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked in many sectors including property/real estate, financial services and retail. He has helped brands such as the innovator incubator RGAx, the music streaming  brand Deezer.com, online gambling brands Foxybingo.com, partypoker.com and Bgo.com and the e-commerce retailer Very. Neal uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
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