Every time you ask your site visitor for something – whether it’s a donation or just an email signup – you are entering a mental conversation. To increase the potential for success, it is important that the thought sequence of that conversation take place in the proper order.
Briefly imagine if you were approached by a stranger on the street, and they said, “Hey, my name’s Tim. Can I have your business card? I’m going to call you later!”
You probably would give this person a weird look, and think, “No way, I don’t know you! Of course you can’t have my contact information! Leave me alone.”
We would never give away something valuable to us, like our contact information, just because someone asks for it. The same is true online.
Not only does it matter how we ask, but the order in which we ask for someone’s information is crucial. When we ask for it out of order, we create anxiety in the mind of the person on the other side of the screen.
Let’s look at a couple of experiments we conducted with nonprofit organizations to help re-order the conversation in order to create a more logical flow, and increase conversions.
Getting the elements of your landing page in the right order
This is an email acquisition page for an e-book offer for a higher education organization. They have a good headline at the top of the page, and they use a three-column layout that mirrors their branding throughout the site. As you can see, they include third-party credibility indicators at the bottom of the page.
Do you notice any problems?
Notice your eye-movement as you work through page. A visitor has to read the copy in the first column, then move back to the top of the page to view the book, and then come back up again to complete the signup form. Up, down, up, down, up, down.
The horizontal layout forces you to slow down to work through the page, and affects the thought sequence leading to the final call-to-action.
We wondered if reorienting the thought sequence would affect the conversion rate on the page.
First, we put all these elements in a linear path from top to bottom on the page to create a more effective flow. We changed the headline to convey value, gave the copy contextual placement near the form, and moved the email acquisition form into the eye-path of the visitor. Then, we moved the book image and credibility indicators to the right column as supporting content. Below the first paragraph is the call-to-action restated as an opportunity to respond.
The treatment produced an increase in conversion by 10.8%.
From this experiment, we learned that matching branding throughout the site is not enough to influence someone to convert. We have to arrange the elements on a landing page so that they maximize the perceived value of an offer, and minimize the perceived cost.
Let’s look at another experiment.
Getting the thought sequence in the right order
This is an experiment that the Texas State Historical Association conducted on a landing page for an eBook download. The design below is something I call “above the fold.” For some reason, we’ve been taught to include all the important information in a header at the top of the page.
The “above the fold” idea was originally created for traditional newspapers so that a folded paper on a newsstand would still display the daily headlines. To see more, the reader has to physically pick up the paper and unfold it.
This problem doesn’t exist online, and yet, so often we follow this same practice! Scrolling up and down through a page is different than unfolding a newspaper, so our websites should function differently.
In this experiment, we reordered the elements on the page, removing the “above the fold” design and created a vertical sequencing path from top to bottom.
The treatment produced a 7.7% lift in conversion on the page.
What we learned from this experiment is that vertically stacking the elements on a landing page can help the reader to naturally flow through the conversation. It’s a natural behavior on a website to scroll down, so we should not be afraid of having elements placed “below the fold.”
Re-ordering page elements to create a top-to-bottom flow is a simple, easy change you can make on any page. Think of it like a real, face-to-face conversation you’re having with the person on the other side of the screen. It should be natural and have a logical flow.
The order of the conversation is crucial to establishing this flow. Don’t jump the natural sequencing process and require too much of your page visitors too early. This creates excess friction and anxiety in the mind of the user, and will cause them to abandon your page.
Do you think your landing page is optimized? Find out if there are elements on your landing page or donation page that are keeping your visitors from converting by taking the free friction self-assessment from NextAfter.