On the quest for higher site conversions, have you considered website usability?  You know, the ease at which users navigate your site. When it’s difficult to find information or complete tasks on a website, conversions go down. Way down.

You want to make it easy for users to convert, so easy that they don’t even need to think about the steps in the process.  You do this with the classic web conventions users have seen and used a zillion times.

Like Bruce Springsteen and good manners, classic web conventions never go out of style.  Take Smashing Magazinecontributor Dmitry Fadeyev’s word for it:

“While giving your website a unique design is great, when it comes to usability, doing what everyone else is doing is best.”

So what’s everyone up to? We’ll tell you. Here’s how to use classic web conventions to boost conversions:

1. Use standard navigation

It’s important to show how your company stands out from the rest, but be warned:

Unique and surprising website navigation is not the way to do it.

As Kissmetricscontributor Andy Crestodina says:

“Your goal is to help people find your content, not show them a new way around a website.”

Do your conversion rate a whopping favor and stick to standard navigation; the kind of stuff your users are well acquainted with. Use timeless navigation elements that help users find your content. This includes:

  • Horizontal navigation across the top or vertical navigation down the left side.
  • Hierarchical lists of categories on the navigation menu that show the most important links at the beginning, and the least important in the middle. Crestodina says the “Contact” link should be the last item on the list, which puts it at the far right in a top-level horizontal navigation.
  • Clickable company logo on every page, which links back to the homepage.
  • Consistent page layout, branding, and navigation scheme across the entire website. This assures users that they haven’t deviated from your site, and keeps them on track to get what they want.

2. Make your content easy to scan

Most web users scan content to find what they need.  The faster they find it, the more satisfied they feel, and the more likely they are to return again or complete a sale.  So before you copy and paste your brochure content onto your homepage in one gargantuan slab of text, consider how to make it scan-able:

  • Break up content into short, concise paragraphs. Include the most pertinent information in the first few paragraphs on the page.
  • Use titles, subtitles, and lists to summarize the main points on a page, and give users a direct pathway to the specific information they seek.
  • Put keywords at the beginning of titles, subtitles, and lists to help users identify the material’s relevancy even faster.
  • Use bold font for keywords throughout the text.
  • Illustrate key points with engaging images when possible, to add visual details and provide users with a strong cue of the page’s relevancy to their needs.

3. Respect the back button

Users oftentimes wield their browser’s back button to navigate a website, because it aids their control of the experience. They have a pretty clear idea of what awaits them with every click, and when they don’t get what they expect, frustration and/or mistrust ensues. Boost user confidence in your website by delivering on their expectations. If you’re going to use fancy AJAX or other Javascript trickery, don’t break the back button!

In fact, UX Booth contributor Rachel Nabors insists you skip the fancy stuff altogether. “Don’t rely on mouse-over effects or clever icons,” she says. “Just remember that your navigation is there to serve your visitors first and foremost, not just to look pretty.”

4. Provide an “About” page

You need to establish trust before you can convert customers.  The conventional way to do this is with an “About” page. When users consider making a purchase on a website, they seek out elements that confirm the company’s legitimacy. The “About” page does the trick. It provides a foundation of credibility that can be complimented by social proof and content marketing.  Classically effective “About” pages include:

  • A brief company description; the people involved, the history, the mission and objectives.
  • Any professional accreditations and certifications earned which distinguish your company.
  • Visual evidence of living, breathing human life. Photographs go a long way in building trust, and can help establish a familial connection with customers.

Want more ways to show your company is the real deal? Check out our blog post: “Trust Me, I’m An Entrepreneur: Tips For Building Trust Online.”

5. Color links in blue and underline ‘em

Inbound links on your website are crucial to getting customers to the finish line (the check-out, the instant quote form, etc). Differentiating all links from the rest of the text helps users achieve their objectives more quickly and easily, which amplifies a positive experience with your site. These are the kind of experiences that bring customers back again and again.

Trust the simple 2-step convention here:

  1. Shade link text in blue.
  2. Underline it.

6. Embrace the scroll function

If you have a long piece of content on your hands, be conventional: scroll it vertically down a single page.  Resist the urge to break it up with jazzy pagination, because users are more comfortable with scrolling. Seriously!

As usability expert Jakob Nielsen says “scrolling beats paging because it’s easier for users to simply keep going down the page than it is to decide whether or not to click through for the next page of a fragmented article.”

It’s just one more way to ensure customers find the information they need to make a decision on your website as easily as possible.

7. Include all the information

There is a time and place to be mysterious on the web – during a teaser campaign for a new product or service, perhaps. But on your standard company website? No way. Ample, plain-faced information about your product or service helps users make a purchasing decision.

Reveal it all in a scan-able layout: tech specs, engaging images, descriptive details.  Definitely include pricing, or an option for users to have a customized instant quote sent to their inbox.

Stuck on your pricing strategy? There’s a blog post for that. Check it out here.

Conclusion

By improving your website’s ease of use with classic conventions, you ultimately show your users how much you value their visit. Strong usability prioritizes their goals over yours, which is about the classiest move you can make online.

What are your thoughts on classic web conventions? Should all websites use them? Have you seen any exceptional, unconventional sites lately?

References

Crestodina, Andy. “Are You Making These Common Website Navigation Mistakes?”14 January 2013. Kissmetrics.com

Nabors, Rachel. “Better User Orientation through Navigation.” 5 May 2009. UXBooth.com

Nielsen, Jakob. “Scrolling and Attention.” 22 March 2010. NMGroup.com

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