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3 ways to simplify your landing page

3 ways to simplify your landing page Tim Ash

2013 is the year of simplicity.

Even though the devices used to visit your website and landing pages have become more diverse and complex and the technology you use for targeting and attracting visitors has increased in sophistication, your biggest challenge is still creating simple, delightful online experiences.

Because, for your online users, it's more important than ever for things to just…work. So how do you make sure your landing pages live up to user expectations -- or at the very least, don't annoy your visitors? Here are four easy ways.

Limit choices

In today's "attention" economy, you want to make sure you make the most out of every second your visitor stays on your website. This means you want your website and landing pages to be designed as close to a visitor's intent as possible and with the least effort required from their part. A website that appears clunky or complicated simply won't hold online visitors' attentions long enough. In fact, there's an increasing number of visitors who can't even see (let alone read) the choices you present. You need to whittle this down to the key offers. If you must have options on your landing page, you need to use:

  • An "anchor" price for the expensive option, which visitors will compare your key offer against

  • A "best value" option that's clearly delineated and highlighted (use a different color, make it pop, and subdue other elements)

  • Potentially, a "cheap" option that will sweeten the best value features

Remove similar choices. In fact, remove the rest.

Use images only where you want visitors to look

The subtleties in the text you're using, the sizes of the headlines, the colors on your site ID, your navigation elements -- they all don't stand a chance against a well-placed image when competing for attention, especially when the image is a face (and a pretty, smiling one, too!).

We're hardwired to look at faces, and you should use that for maximum impact. If the face is looking at your key call-to-action, you're driving attention there. Use images with care, and keep image use to a minimum. You want to craft an experience that carefully tracks where visitors are likely to skim and, perhaps more importantly, where they will fixate.

Don't bury the lead

Heatmap and eye-tracking studies have shown that visitors read (or don't read) in largely predictable, well-understood ways. They will notice large fonts before they will notice smaller ones. They will recognize colors that are different from the core design compared to those that blend. They will notice irregular shapes before they notice regular ones. They will skim from top to bottom, from left to right, until they find something that resembles what they need -- and then they will act on this.

Based on this information, you can deduce that visitors will only scan your landing page for a short amount of time (often in seconds) and then decide whether to explore it further or leave. So if you want them to stay, make it clear that they're in the right place. You need to present the visitor with a clear headline, elements like logos of large companies you have worked with or social proof that your product is well-used, and a compelling call-to-action. Do not bury those elements.

Bonus: A simple way to optimize for mobiles

The same principle of simplifying landing pages is particularly useful when optimizing for mobile sites. In fact, it is even more important that you keep things to a minimum when designing and optimizing sites for mobile users, keeping only those elements that are essential to accomplishing your visitors' goals. This principle should influence your decisions when building or optimizing your mobile site (e.g. which platform or what kind of design to adapt).

The good news is that if you've been using Site Catalyst, WebTrends, Google Analytics, or some other tool to track behavior, you should already have a pretty clear understanding of device and operating system growth. Your response to the change in traffic mix should be based on your data. For instance, if the visit patterns are similar between mobile (smartphones and tablets) and traditional (desktops and laptops), then you should be using responsive design to minimize breaks in the user experience. If you can clearly see the distinctions in the tasks being performed, you need to create a separate mobile experience and optimize for those tasks on mobile visits. Either way, the output will be simpler and more appropriate for the user.

Your ability to hone in on what the visitors need -- regardless of device choice, operating system, browser, platform, and location -- will drive marketing success in this age of device diversity. Instead of being distracted by big technology trends, you should focus on your goal of providing users where they are with the simplest experience possible in the most delightful ways the medium offers.

Because big trends will come and go, but if you always start where your users are and consciously adapt your design practices based on their needs, you already have an edge in the race.

Tim Ash is the CEO of SiteTuners.

On Twitter? Follow Tim at @tim_ash. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Image via Digital Delight.

Tim Ash is author of the bestselling book Landing Page Optimization, and CEO of SiteTuners, a firm that specializes in improving website conversion rates through landing page diagnosis and redesign, conversion consulting, a/b and multivariate test...

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