Website design expectations and choice paralysis

Most people think that building a website is the avenue to success. It gives them great access to qualified visitors, or potential customers that their business wouldn’t have previously received, it can make a small operation look massive and sometimes a large company look deceptively small.

Most organisations pay literally thousand for web design and then sit back and wait for the deluge, only to find out the deluge of visitors is simply a steady trickle, and those hundreds of sales or conversions simply don’t come in.

Even if you’ve built or had built the perfectly SEO’d website, don’t think that’s it, it’s very likely that you’ll get a flood of traffic, but you probably won’t get the conversions you expected to start off with, you’re going to have to tweak your website over the coming months until you find out what works.

Simplicity is web design

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of over designing a website. Simplicity is the mantra of most good designers and it should be the case with web design too. Don’t cram as many calls to action button in every bit of whitespace you’ve got or the visitor won’t know what to do, why’s this?

What is choice paralysis

Choice paralysis occurs when a person is presented with too many choices. I can honestly say I’ve experienced this and consciously thought about it first hand. I’m from a small town in the UK, I’ve lived and worked in big cities, but I’m not a massive fan of them. I’m happy to spend my day in a field in the open air. When I went to America for the first time I went to a supermarket and the level of choice was immense. I was trying to decide what I should get and eventually I gave up, at the time I rationalised that I hadn’t been conditioned to making this kind of choice because I wasn’t used to having this many options.

It’s the same with the net. Put too many choices on your websie and the visitor won’t know which action to take, your conversions will dip.

How to find out if your visitors suffer from choice paralysis

Anayltics is a good place to start, you’re going to need some good tracking software, if you’ve got an ecommerce site I doubt Google Anayltics is the right package for you, if your website has relatively few pages then GA is probably fine.

Removing choices

I think it’s always a good idea to remove the choice options one by one, leaving the site for a couple of weeks and then reviewing the website statistics to see what effect you’ve had.

Often there isn’t a great deal of difference to scream and shout about.

I used to work for a large hosting company, and their standard webpage was laid out in a particular fashion with body text including a call to action and some request a quote buttons at the top. They were effective, but could be better. Whilst reviewing the site I found that there was one page on the site that had a conversion rate that was about 5 times greater than the other pages, this page had a simple table which compared three variations of the same product. By replicating this formula on every page we were able to increase the conversion rate by 300% – when we tried to increase the number of options from 3 to 5 we saw a drop off in the number of conversions, the conclusion being that there was simply too much choice and the visitor no longer knew what to do.

Displaying the options

It’s also possible to display the options in such a way that the user is directed to the option you want them to take, for example by highlighting the middle option you can increase the likelihood of the user choosing that option – sounds simple and obvious but it’s surprising how many websites don’t have these fundamental elements

The key to really effective website design is simplicity and make sure you know from the start what action you want your visitors to take and give them the opportunity to ke it by giving them the perception of choice without too much actual choice.

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