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The Role Of Design In Conversion, Notice I Said "design"


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#1 glyn

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 02:54 AM

I'm about to do a small research study but before I did (which I'll come back here with what I found out), I thought I might jump in and ask a few enlightened souls in case something has already been covered on the topic.

 

For the purposes of this discussion I'd like to talk about "usability" and "design" as two separate elements of website creation process, even if there will be some that say design and usability are the same thing. The more I spend looking through websites and analyzing the data I can't help avoid a conclusion about people that go online: People don't really care about design so long as they know what they are getting. As you might know my specialization is travel and tourism and I'm therefore really focused on this sector when looking through data.

 

Here is what I think:

 

If you have a hotel with a nice website, that is usable, responsive, quick and is converting customers and you need to build another one for a hotel, is it actually worth putting another 20K on website design rather than just cloning an existing website and putting a new design wrapper on it. We're assuming a build on an open-source platform (wordpress et al).

 

My feeling is that for hotels the vast majority of the punters looking at their websites don't really care so much about a breathtaking design (which could in fact isolate people based on their own cultural interpretation of the design - because websites are global instantly and can't be controlled like a print leaflet or newspaper ad) but do care that everything is easy to use, but they do want to know what they are getting (most hotel websites fail massively in this capacity).

 

When you look at websites like Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Amazon, you do have to question just how much people give a sh** about design. I'm not saying here that I don't appreciate the value of design but I wonder whether, specifically in the web-context it has as much value to people as we might be led to believe by the web-agencies.

 

I bet that just about everyone has been to a hotel website in the past months, and how many of those read just like a print catalogue? I'm starting to feel that as long as a website works well from a usability point of view (IE it's clear and tells people what they are doing, where they are and what comes next), and is easily viewed on whatever screen the person is looking at, that it loads fast (Google happy), that the overall impact that a "designed" website is going to bring is going to factor pretty low down the scale in terms of getting people to convert.

 

What do you think?

 

Glyn

 



#2 Grumpus

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 07:26 AM

As you say, usability doesn't equal design. Usability is the bridge between design and function. It's far less artistic and subjective than design, but far more than the functionality is.

 

When you look at websites like Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Amazon, you do have to question just how much people give a sh** about design.

 

Except that I would argue that (most of) these sites have some of the best design on the web.

 

I see so many postings around where people say, "Hey - this is a great design!" I go there and check it out and say to myself, sure - it looks great. Whistles, bells, and lots of pretty things all around. Ultimately, though, I can't name a single one of those many sites I've looked at over the past year or so. None of those sites ever once compelled me to look more deeply into whatever it was that they were selling or doing.

 

Overly designed web sites are as big a problem as under designed ones.

Amazon, for example, has spent more money on design over the years than just about any site out there. Color science is a huge factor there, along with white-space and balance.

 

Speaking of color science - here's a great old discussion from back when we were starting cre8asite.net, working a redesign here, and creating a new logo for the whole cre8 thing. For a good long while, our color scheme was very similar to Amazon's - and as you can see by that thread, for a good reason, too. Now, the forums here have backed off on the orange quite a bit, but you can still see some remnants in the logo, favicon, and a few other sprinkles around the place.

 

At the end of the day, if you are ever "aware" of a web site's design, you are almost certainly looking at an either under or over designed web site. It's the ones where the idea of "design" never pops into your mind (unless it was already there when you started to look) that have found the sweet spot.

 

G.



#3 EGOL

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 07:35 AM

When I use a hotel website there are a few things that are on my list to find out....

 

**  Where is the hotel located?  Can I walk to my meeting?  (this is checked first and is most important)

 

**  Can I connect to the web from my room, what is the fee?

 

**  Can I get breakfast and get out quickly?  A breakfast bar is preferred.

 

**  Do rooms have a desk that can be used by a human?  No desk or bad desk and I loose a couple hours a day of good work.

 

**  Is there on-site parking?  How much does it cost?  (Free parking, or paid parking at a reasonable walk can not be assumed.)

 

**  Can I get a room that is no smoking and no animals?

 

**  I want to see a room photo that is representative of what I will get.

 

**  I need the street address of the hotel for GPS.

 

If I can't get answers to the above quickly and easily, I am off to another hotel's website.  Most of the above are deal breakers in a competitive market.

 

After I find answers to the above I am going to google maps and check the street view.  I want to know what kind of neighborhood the hotel is in and see if the obvious exterior maintenance is different from what is depicted on the hotel's website.  Website photos can be taken many years ago, street view is often more recent.

 

I usually take a quick look at reviews on a neutral website (not on the hotel's website because they might monkey with the reviews).

 

===================================

 

Now to your question... Does design matter to me?   No, not really.   Actually, I prefer websites that look like newspapers.  That means no fancy template because fancy templates compete with the information that is being presented.   I like clean, no distractions.  A website showing people drinking booze or sittin' in a hot tub... who wants to see that?

 

What is usability to me?   It is being able to get the info above quickly and easily.   If getting information from the website becomes a treasure hunt I am off to another hotel.   Usability is that the webdesign people anticipated the criteria that I listed above and put it where I can find it.



#4 glyn

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 09:50 AM

Thanks for this feedback, I'm going to keep doing some research into this.



#5 bobbb

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 10:26 AM

is it actually worth putting another 20K on website design rather than just cloning an existing website and putting a new design wrapper on it

I think you have said it all. It works. Don't fix.

 

Amazon, for example, has spent more money on design over the years than just about any site out there.

Even the navigation system must have tons of design time in it. I seem to remember this in these forums but here is one link which talks about it.

http://bjk5.com/post...s-mega-dropdown



#6 cre8pc

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 10:42 AM

I have worked on some of the travel sites mentioned above (but for contract reasons, am not allowed to say which ones).  

 

Here's how it plays out.

 

Travel sites are not about the end user.  They (us) are a means to an end.  The top requirement for travel sites is to generate revenue. That requirement trumps user centered design every time.

 

To design for humans means WANTING to design for humans.  It is consistent that this is not a top priority, for most websites in general.  For travel sites, and I've worked on the most famous to several smaller ones in the UK, there is a desire by stakeholders to be user friendly but that desire isn't met because they have no idea what being user friendly means.  In fact, usability testing is done at the end of a project and then it's too late.

 

For conversions to succeed, a lot of research has to be done at the whiteboard stage and then prototype stage.  Again, unless a company hires a UX pro, this step is ignored and they go on to the next steps, which is letting programmers code with any empathy for the end users.  Programmers are kept out of the loop and are not given personas, mental models, and user data before they code.  They are given hardware, platform, browser, server, performance, and technical requirements that are not user driven, but rather, management driven - investor driven - marketing department driven.  So they code in a bubble and testing with end users is not done.

 

For you, Glyn, to succeed in this competitive vertical, means NOT doing what all the other travel companies do.  They all look alike because they think each other has the ticket to revenue nirvana and trust me, they don't.  Ask anyone who uses travel sites and they will tell you they can't stand them.  They're all confusing to use to book flights, hotels, etc.  Most of them are easy to submit reviews and ratings, but again, who tests this to see how much of this feedback is genuine and how much is SEO/M paid strategy work?  Slap ads on these travel sites and most travel sites are finished with caring about user experience. In fact, layouts are not about user experience and all about getting ads clicked or sponsored sections viewed.

 

To do this properly, step back and ask some questions about who the people are who use travel sites.  Take into consideration the increase in older populations around the world for example.  Cognitive abilities are a factor.  The ability to use a mouse. Read with changing corneas and eye issues that come from age and diabetes.  Touch screens and tablet usage is increasing for the over 40 crowd, but I bet your programmers are young and not even thinking about what it's like to use a site when someone is older.  Older persons travel but they are always designed out of travel sites.

 

Special needs people travel.  Having traveled with a wheelchair bound SEO, I have a small window of insight into his experiences regarding flights and hotels for wheelchair travels.  Travel sites that ignore them don't convert.

 

So what I'm saying is that if you really want to design for user experiences that convert, it is vital to understand who is expected to use the site.  User testing starts at the start, including prototypes testing and getting feedback on existing sites to help determine where the opportunities are, failures and enhancement ideas are found.

 

Usability standards are easy.  There are heurisitcs and standards for testing basic UX.  Persuasive design has an even greater set of guidelines but every one of them must be testing with your users.  This is why sites fail. Companies make guesses or hire people with no experience with user testing and human factors.  Programmers never see user personas but user interface designers may and these two camps don't talk to each other.

 

The one final point.  Every one of the travel sites you mentioned has found out the hard way that they failed their end users.  That's the only hint I will give you  B:)



#7 EGOL

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 11:48 AM

 

Amazon, for example, has spent more money on design over the years than just about any site out there.

Even the navigation system must have tons of design time in it

 

Yep, I bet they spent hours and hours coding all of those followed footer links.



#8 earlpearl

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 03:31 PM

Off topic for a bit:

When I use a hotel website there are a few things that are on my list to find out....

 

**  Where is the hotel located?  Can I walk to my meeting?  

...

....

....

 

**  I need the street address of the hotel for GPS.

 

If I can't get answers to the above quickly and easily, I am off to another hotel's website.  Most of the above are deal breakers in a competitive market.

 

After I find answers to the above I am going to google maps and check the street view.  I want to know what kind of neighborhood the hotel is in and see if the obvious exterior maintenance is different from what is depicted on the hotel's website.  Website photos can be taken many years ago, street view is often more recent.

 

I usually take a quick look at reviews on a neutral website (not on the hotel's website because they might monkey with the reviews).

 

===================================

more on off-topic:

 

If you search for something like "hotels/city name" in google search you won't find any contact information of the sort EGOL wants and that I kept in the quote.   Currently google search in google.com won't show street addresses, won't show a map on a pc, doesn't give a link to the site, doesn't have a phone number.   Its the non answer search engine.    Compare that with searching for hotels in the US from google.ca or google.co.uk etc and you do get relevant contact into.

 

Its astonishing.  In the US google gives results for searches such as restaurants/city name  or hotel/city name that are the least consumer friendly possible.  I'd use other sources, Bing, yelp, etc.  I wouldn't use google.com to search for restaurants or hotels in US cities.  Its horrible, deliberately horrible and user unfriendly.

 

As to the other points from EGOL's list.   Those are a lot of requirements.  You really do need to go to the hotel sites to pull out all that info, (if they have it).  Internet travel agent sites won't have all that info.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Trying to be back on topic:    Glyn:  Are there elements of design that you are oriented towards, that you see elsewhere that you don't see on hotel sites, that you would want to try???

 

Over the years there have been some spots that I've liked to travel to for specific features in the vicinity;  tremendous bicycle trips, hiking, scenery, or beaches etc.  Sometimes I see things like that featured on the hotel sites.  Sometimes I don't.  I suppose that is more supplemental information and not design, but it has surprised me to see the differences in hotel sites that do and don't feature the nearby areas that are clear attractions.    These comments are more oriented toward information and content than design, other than if I were searching for hotels near some well noted scenic attractions, I'd be more oriented toward that hotel if when I came to the site it referenced or had visuals of those attractions. 



#9 glyn

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 05:04 AM

On phone wil, reply a bitbybit:

Grumpus, is amazon design? I think it is just usability.

Kim: culture, ethnicity, prejudices, disabilities, can you really design for this in such a wide open context as the web forces companies to be? Is there usability the only answer rather than design, which could cost you more and exclude some of your publics?

Egol: clarity over design, where you dont have to dazzle your publics.

what do you think?

Glyn.

#10 Grumpus

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 06:12 AM

Grumpus, is amazon design? I think it is just usability.

 

I'm not sure how to address this. I'll get back to ya. lol

 

G.



#11 cre8pc

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 10:52 AM

Kim: culture, ethnicity, prejudices, disabilities, can you really design for this in such a wide open context as the web forces companies to be? Is there usability the only answer rather than design, which could cost you more and exclude some of your publics? 

 

How many of those people are expected customers?  

 

When the competition includes them, they get the revenue.

 

It's a hard sell to stakeholders who carry the belief that if you build it, they will come.  And cows jump over the moon too.  :dazed:

 

The reality is that coding for the requirements I bring up is easy to do.  Adding alt attributes when inserting images. Testing color contrasts when choosing font and link colors.  Getting the spacing between touch screen buttons right (lots of data on what is needed).  User testing, heck, leave the office and take sketches to friends and family or customers.

 

Management will come up with a 50,000 reasons to not build a great website because they are inexperienced and have not hired the right people  :infinite-banana:



#12 fisicx

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 11:14 AM

Grumpus, is amazon design? I think it is just usability.

Aren't they all part of the same thing.

 

When people talk about design they usually mean all the bling that is hung on a website. As Grumpus said this is often the 'wow' factor that works for about a nanosecond. But adding 1px of line spacing is just as much about design as adding a slider.

 

Strip out all the bling from your site. Reduce the palettes, get rid of the logos and and other distractions and you may be surprised. What you are doing is designing a website. What you aren't doing is getting destracted by shiny things. Which is what amazon does. They don't want you to look at the header, they want you to look at the products and buy those products. Go to a product on amazon and look at the 'add to basket/cart'. notice the design of the button, it's different to anything else on the page. Why? Because they want it to stand out so you click on it. It's part of the design. It might not be pleasing to the eye of the artisitic types but it works - and makes money which a Kim elluded to is the whole purpose of the website. No point in having a stunning looking site if no one buys anything.



#13 iamlost

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 11:36 AM

Design done correctly can significantly make people feel comfortable, more 'at home', which can lead to significantly more return visits and conversions.
Note: not without being usable, without providing whatever they came for, etc. of course.

At it's broadest I have different colours, typography for the different language versions although the site structure and page layout remain the same.
At a more granular level:
* when I have reason to 'know' a visitor is from one of a number of demographic/ethnic groups I have tested against I show the colours, typography and page layout that tested best. I also switch out some to many to all images so that people shown are of that group.

* I have specific curation landing pages designed to highlight those site content choices most likely (via test) to appeal to specific social media user groups. By designing these pages to look and feel similar to the social site they came from I make them feel welcome while quietly directing them.  

I am no expert at design but the little I've done has shown great ROI.

NOTE: if designing for Google referred traffic treat them like drive through fast food customers: clean, simple, obvious, fast. High volume, low value.



#14 Grumpus

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Posted 07 March 2015 - 12:58 PM

Fisicx basically said what I had in my head so... whew. I don't have to put all that into words. Ultimately, design is as much about what you don't do, don't see, and don't put onto the page as what you do. Sometimes, less is more.

 

Check that. Almost always, less is more.

 

And cows jump over the moon too.

 

But pigs still don't fly.

 

G.





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