If Looks Could Kill: How Bad Site Design Can Kill Your Conversion Rate

by Frank on February 27, 2010

Like many people, my first job out of college was a temp at a large corporation.  The economy was bad, and let’s just say that not many places know what “Ag Development” is, much less how it applies to the business world.  So I signed up with a temp agency and worked my way in.

One day, I got pulled off one assignment and offered something like $17 an hour to be the receptionist.  Now, this was not a job that was worth $17/hr.  Basically, I printed off name tags, called the employee the visitor had come to meet with… and that was about it.  I don’t recall Solitaire actually being in the job description, but it should have been (this was in the dark ages, before Farmville and even before Facebook).  And no, it wasn’t a government job.  The reason they were willing to pay me this outrageous sum?  Because I looked and acted professional.  Apparently they had sent home TWO temps who had shown up in clothes more suited to go clubbing, and they knew I’d at least show up dressed professionally.

Does Your Site Look Like This Used Car Salesman?The moral of the story is that when you’re the first person a visitor to a corporate headquarters sees, you’re the face of the company.  Appearance matters.

How’s your website looking these days?  I used to read the “insider secrets” of a lot of guys who defended those long, scrolling, spammy-looking info-product sites with no navigation options (known as “squeeze pages”).  “They may not be pretty, but they convert like crazy!” they’d say, and I’m sure some do.  But most looked like the online equivalent of a used car lot in a bad area of town.  Instead of projecting credibility and professionalism, their over-the-top hype and “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” feel made me want to hold onto my wallet.

So what works?  Often it’s as simple as adding those handy “trust me” badges, like the Verisign security thing, or the Authorize.net badge that comes with using them as your processor.  But it can be easier and cheaper than that.  Take a look at your site and just ask yourself, “does this look trustworthy?”  Does the cart seem to be hiding something, or look like it’s held together by duct-tape and baling wire? Or does it look and feel and behave like a highly-credible shopping cart should?

Like my lucrative temp job, sometimes getting the sale is as simple as looking the part.


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