The Importance Of Designing For The End Result

Landing pages have always fascinated me. Coming originally from the world of design, their visual aesthetic, form and function have always been difficult competing priorities to balance. Fundamentally, everyone wants a site and pages that look great. But, as I have said a thousand times – a gorgeous site that does not do its job is not worth much. And, let’s face it, web sites and particularly paid search landing pages have some serious jobs, like generating leads or making sales. Neither of which is an easy goal to achieve.

Historically, designing an attractive and well-functioning site has always been considered the ideal. It’s what we are all, theoretically, trying to achieve. And in the early days of the web, having a site at all or having a site that was reasonably attractive and that worked, automatically put you ahead of your competition almost all of the time. But, those days have been over for quite some time. No longer is it sufficient to just have an attractive web site. It had best be performing and generating real dollars that can be tied directly back to it.

Today, you not only need to have a great web site, but landing pages have to be more than just regular old pages in your web site. They must be designed with your end goal in mind – driving visitors toward your conversion action. If you’ve ever attended a session at an industry conference where the experts break down landing pages live, then you know that most landing pages have room to improve. And, many have a lot of room to improve!

At these types of sessions or in posts you’ll find online, the advice is generally the same:

  1. Be very clear about what you are selling
  2. Be brief in why the visitor should care
  3. Have a very clear call to action so visitors know what to do next
  4. Lose anything on the page that in any way is distracting or dilutes your primary conversion goal
  5. Make sure you check the page for mobile viewing

Seems simple enough, right? Well, here is where it gets complicated. As paid search professionals, we are all about getting our clients conversions. We want to employ every possible advantage we can to get the absolute maximum number of people to the landing page and then once there, have them complete the desired action. That part is simple. The hard part is designing a page that does all of these things and also pleases the client. Let’s face it, designing for today’s increasingly mobile audience makes for web pages that are not what one would consider traditionally beautiful. Responsive design puts restrictions on how pages need to be constructed in order to seamlessly reshuffle themselves into mobile-friendly versions of themselves. In fact, depending on your target market, you may get as many or more visitors to your mobile version of the landing page than the traditional or desktop version.

This fact represents a pretty significant shift in how we (and clients) need to be thinking about page design. It’s been such a long time coming that I think in some ways, clients are fatigued by the concept of “mobile first” designs. Unfortunately, the time has come where businesses, web designers and search marketers really do need to adjust our thinking and expectations for site design to reflect the ever growing time people (read customers for our clients) are spending on their mobile devices. This is just the reality. You can pretend it is not happening and hold on to old design preferences, but that will not prevent the shift from continuing. It will only prevent your clients from achieving maximum success in converting visitors into customers.

This transition is hard. I don’t mean to make light of it. My graphic design background makes the aesthetics of mobile friendly/responsive layouts distasteful to me. But here’s the thing – it is my job to help clients make the best version of a site or landing page that will get the job done. Sometimes, the answer does not look like what I’d want it to look like if I didn’t have to take responsive design into consideration. How could it? Responsive design is highly restrictive. Designing for “mobile first” experiences makes for pretty utilitarian looking web sites. I miss the days of beautiful and original web design. I loved that process!

Today though, what makes sense is to take advantage of the massive amount of data out there about what works in general and apply it to what you’re doing for and with your clients. Sure, each case will be slightly different, but we still need to be building designs based on the data and science available to us. It is only then that we can hope to maximize results for our clients.

The absolute hardest part of this whole process involves tuning out the very powerful voice of our own prejudices when it comes to design that “speaks to us”. If “we” are not the exact target audience of the campaign, then what “speaks” to us should be of little consequence. We need to design and help our clients to design landing pages and web sites that will move their customers and potential customers to take action. It really is as simple as that. We need to let go of old ideas about what is attractive and embrace what is needed to succeed in today’s competitive environment. Hanging on to the old practices is only putting you and your clients further behind an already incredibly fasts moving curve.

How are you handling landing pages for your paid search clients? Are they part of the main web site or are you utilizing an external tool or service to generate them? As always, I love to hear your thoughts and experiences either in the comments or on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

Comments

  1. What you’re saying is going to be the norm in a few years for the industry. Might be hard for some to swallow now, but those who can palate the taste will be tasting sweet sweet success!

    Some studies are saying mobile will account for more than half of digital advertising spend next year. That easily validates what you’re suggesting here; that mobile should in fact be the priority.

    • Neptune Moon says:

      Appreciate the comment Luke.

      Mobile has finally arrived and it is not going to give back its share any time soon – it will only keep growing. I hope the design technology can even somewhat keep up, because the transition is hard to adjust to from a visual and content standpoint from traditional page design, layout and content.

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