Your users will make mistakes. It’s inevitable. That’s what error messages are for—but so many companies fail to follow best practices, and they’re pissing off potential customers in the process.
So, how can we better design error messages to improve the user experience and, therefore, increase conversions?
There’s a popular user experience quote: “A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.” While clever, that statement is far from true.
User interfaces shouldn’t be complicated, but you can’t expect a new user to understand a new interface without any direction. Similarly, you can’t expect an existing user to understand an updated interface or a new feature without any help.
Back in 1984, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini wrote a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Since then, it’s been widely hailed as a seminal book on marketing—something everyone in conversion optimization should read.
Friction is “the psychological resistance that your visitors experience when trying to complete an action.” It’s also a conversion killer.
You can optimize your value proposition or call to action buttons all you want, but if your sign-up flow contains too much friction, you’re leaving money on the table.
If you’re not following form design best practices, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
While forms aren’t the sexiest part of conversion optimization, they tend to be the closest to the money—the macro-conversions. Spending a little time optimizing forms can be some of the most important optimization work you can do.
Of course, best practices don’t work the same on all sites. It’s contextual. But generally, implementing form design tactics that work more often than not is a good way to get started.
A few years ago, I launched a kind of “Groupon deal for musicians.” I gave away $1,250 worth of products, including recording time, iTunes distribution, and a guitar-string endorsement deal for just $69. The deal was good for only 100 hours, and there were just 5,000 packages available.
I had invested a lot into the campaign. Not only had I spent four months putting it together, but I had also put a significant amount of my personal savings into ensuring that this campaign was everywhere during those 100 hours.
A study by Google had two key findings:
- Users will judge websites as beautiful or not within 1/50th to 1/20th of a second.
- “Visually complex” websites are consistently rated as less beautiful than their simpler counterparts.
Moreover, “highly prototypical” sites—those with layouts commonly associated with sites of their category—that also had a simple website design were rated the most beautiful.
In other words, the study found that the simpler the design, the better.
People make snap judgments. It takes only 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a person. Websites are no different.
User flow is the path a user follows through your website interface to complete a task—make a reservation, purchase a product, subscribe to something. It’s also called a user journey.
And it has a massive impact on conversions.
To maximize your conversions, you have to get the user flow right on your site. Do it by building a user flow that matches user’s needs.
Your ecommerce checkout flow is where the money is at. Think about it. Random visitors leave the site before ever entering the checkout funnel. Motivated buyers come here to finish their order.
Any small design improvement in your checkout UX usually has a direct impact on how much money your site makes.
An ecommerce site that I analyzed recently had a payment page in which 84.7% of the traffic proceeded to buy. I calculated that if we could increase that to 90%, it would result in 461 more orders and an additional $87,175 per month—23.9% revenue growth. “Small” gains can be huge.