The key to designing experiences that convert

4 min read
Leigh Bryant,
Talia Wolf
  •  Jul 16, 2018
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Hands up if you’ve experienced this one before:

  1. You spend most of the month planning, outlining, and designing the perfect experience. You’re sure this variation will drive more sales/signups/downloads/other KPIs.
  2. It finally goes live. High fives all around!
  3. A few weeks later the numbers start coming in and the results aren’t what you were expecting. Sigh. Turns out conversions haven’t changed much if at all, and it’s back to the drawing board.

This happens all the time.

The same thing would happen to me a lot back when I started doing conversion optimization for a living.

Whenever I found a problem in the funnel and decided to optimize it, I’d end up with not much of an uplift and a lot of frustration.

Related: How to design a pricing page that converts

This happened to me because I was going about conversion optimization the wrong way. I was focused on changing elements on the page like call-to-action buttons and headlines or reducing steps in the funnel, but as I learned very quickly: Conversion optimization isn’t about changing elements on a page. It’s about solving people’s problems.

So once I had enough of reading the “Make this one change and increase your conversions by 500%!!!” articles, I sat down and built my own optimization framework.

“Conversion optimization isn’t about changing elements on a page. It’s about solving people’s problems.”

Only then did I finally start 10X conversions for my clients, impacting the bottom line and the growth of the company.

I’m telling you all this because 99 times out of 100, people make a change on a page hoping it will increase conversions. And it doesn’t.


Because they’re designing for their goals in mind. They have certain goals they need to hit, they have solutions they need to sell so they focus on selling them.

We’re so focused on our own goals and what our business needs, we forget to focus on what our customers need (you know, the people behind those screens—those searching for a solution to their problem).

Every person who comes to your site is faced with a problem that needs solving. Changing the color of a call-to-action button, telling them about how amazing your product is, or explaining how special your pricing is, isn’t going to do that for them.

Not at first, anyway.

So what will?

Why people just aren’t that into your design

Let’s take a step back for a moment and think about how people behave and search for things online. Here’s what most searches look like:

  1. Google “Virtual Assistant Services”
  2. Start opening links in new tabs
  3. Quickly jump from one tab to the next, spending no more than three seconds on each one until something catches your eye
  4. Start reading, scrolling, and considering

What was it that made you stop and consider this service over others?

Let me make one thing clear: It wasn’t a huge call-to-action button telling you to BUY NOW!

It wasn’t a headline that read “VIRTUAL ASSISTANT SERVICES” (simply spelling out what they do).

And it wasn’t a long list of features explaining the different offers they have (no time to take all that in, while tab jumping).

So what was it?


Something caught your eye, something made you feel. “This company might just understand me and what I need.”

If you’re not working on that part of your design and experience, you will never get the results you want—no matter how many beautiful landing pages you create or how many fields you remove from your registration form.

You’re not the hero of the story. Your customer is.

To create a high-converting experience, one that grabs people’s attention as soon as they land on your page and makes them start considering your offer, you need to follow one important rule:

Make it about the customer.

This is the first and most important pillar of the optimization process I created.

It’s based on many tests and in-depth research I did that showed that the vast majority of businesses online focus on themselves and neglect the emotional-drivers of their customers.

After evaluating thousands of landing pages, I found that most of them look something like this:

  • The “This is what we do!!!” headline
  • The “We’re the best at it in the world” subtitle
  • The “This is what our solution looks like (on different screens)” hero image
  • The “This is what you can do with our solution” bullet points
  • The “Take this action right NOW, because we said so” call-to-action button.

These kinds of pages lack one key component: emotion.

Hundreds of emotional triggers drive our purchasing decisions, but none of them appear in these pages, instead they’re focused entirely on the solution they’re selling and not the customer.

When businesses connect with their customers emotions, the payoff is huge, prospects immediately see the value is considering your offer and converting. In fact, using emotion is exactly how the biggest brands in the world (e.g Nike, Coca Cola or Dove) do so well. Nike doesn’t focus on the shoe they’re selling, but on how you feel while you’re wearing those shoes.

“You’re not the hero of the story. Your customer is.”

Twitter Logo

If you want to create a persuasive and high-converting experience, understand what your customers’ emotional drivers are and show them on the page. You have to make it about the customer.Twitter Logo

How to make it about the customer

#1: Start by identifying the pain your prospect is experiencing right now

The best way to make it about the customer and understand those emotions: show them you understand their pain, you know where they’re coming from, and that it’s something that you’ve felt yourself.

You need to know the answers to these questions:

  • What pain are your prospects feeling right now?
  • How is this pain affecting their everyday lives?
  • Why must they find a solution?
  • What will happen if they don’t?

If you understand their pain and where it stems from, you can write copy and choose visuals and psychological colors that trigger those emotions and show people you understand the pain they’re experiencing.

#2: Continue with identifying their emotional drivers

Why are people really buying your solution?

Though we love to think of ourselves as rational beings who make rational purchasing decisions, that simply isn’t the case.

Our decisions are influenced by our emotions, how we’re feeling right now (e.g lost, confused, lonely, and frustrated) versus what we want to feel (e.g part of a community, loved, and successful).

To find out what your prospects’ emotional drivers are you have to get into your customers’ heads. Here are some of the steps to take:

  1. Run surveys
  2. Print and review your chat logs
  3. Go through all your support tickets
  4. Dig deep into Google Analytics
  5. Analyse user behavior on heatmaps
  6. Do competitor research
  7. AND of course, Interview customers

(Pssttt… here’s a list of my favorite customer survey questions to identify those emotions).

Once you start digging further and get to know your customers beyond the device they’re using and geographical location, you’ll open a window to what your customers really care about and will be able to identify their emotional drivers.

#3: Identify and address their roadblocks

  • What are their hesitations or concerns?
  • What outcomes are they afraid of?
  • What would stop them from buying into your solution?

Identifying your prospects roadblocks will help you in knowing exactly what content needs to be addressed on your page.

Rather than waiting for people to bring up their concerns or just lose them completely (since most people won’t have any motivation to tell you their concerns), you need to identify the key issues that may send people to the next tab and address them immediately on the page.

The best way to address people’s roadblocks: use social proof.Twitter Logo Rather than asking clients to simply praise you in their testimonial, you could ask them to talk about a specific concern they once had and how you solved it for them.

An example:

Roadblock: People aren’t sure they can trust us.

You could say: We’re a safe, trustworthy company.

Or your customer could say: “I’ve been with these guys for five years. I wouldn’t trust anyone but them to get this job done.”

See the difference?

Social proof can and should be used for more than just self praise. As Andy Crestodina once said: “Everything you say is marketing, everything your customers say is social proof. “

(Here are 10 advanced ways I use social proof to increase conversions.)

#4: Identify their desired emotional outcome

“People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.” –Belle Beth Cooper

Your goal is to show people on the page that your solution can transform them into that better version of themselves.

It’s not about how many calories a Coke has or what glass the bottle is made of, it’s about the fact that opening a bottle of Coke means opening happiness.

It’s not about the foam sole or the air cushioning of the Nike Air shoes, it’s about the experience and unleashing yourself.

You don’t have to be a huge brand or have a huge budget to create an emotional connection with customers and simply show people what’s in it for them. For example:

  1. By using your solution, the overlooked, ignored and under-appreciated marketer will be admired by her peers and manager.
  2. An overworked, tired, and frustrated father could become the loving, tolerant and accepting father he’s always wanted to be by learning to meditate with your app.
  3. An overwhelmed and anxious campaign manager could gain confidence and control by taking your online course.

It’s about understanding what better version of themselves your customer or client is looking for and making them feel that on the page.

Putting theory into practice

My favorite part of my job is that I get to see the impact the changes I make have on businesses and their visitors. Optimization isn’t a redesign, it’s experimentation and a way for us to continuously find new ways to use emotion for driving more conversions.

One of our previous clients, a software platform for creating invitations hired us to help them stand out from their competitors. This company faced many common challenges:

  • They were far more expensive than their competitors
  • The software required downloading before using it
  • Before creating your invitation you’d have to pay first
  • And, it wasn’t just a one time payment it was a subscription

All this presented as high risk for most prospects.

Their initial approach to these issues was also quite common, they worked on reducing load time, changing the color and size of the call to action button, reducing steps in their signup flow, added an exit pop up and changed their headlines multiple times.

As you might have guessed, these changes didn’t work as well as they’d hoped.

Reviewing their landing page, we noticed some of the issues:

  1. Their main message focused on what they do, not the value.
  2. The only images on the page were images of the product itself
  3. Their message focused solely on how the product works and what it does

After conducting our emotional targeting research, we learned that our main target audience was parents. Parents who want to throw a successful, exciting and memorable party for their child and who want their party to stand out. However, these parents work very hard and are left with little to no time to make it happen, leading to guilt and a lot of stress.

Realizing this, we set out to create a landing page that focused on 3 main emotional-drivers:

  1. Uniqueness. Showing prospects they can stand out from the crowd and throw a beautiful, memorable party that their kid and/or friends will remember.
  2. Confidence. Helping prospects feel confident and successful in planning and executing a perfect party.
  3. Simplicity. Removing any sense of risk, worry or intimidation from the entire process.

Our goal: Create a landing page that highlighted the customer’s value from using our client’s service.

Once we identified the emotional triggers we wanted to test, we used a combination of color psychology, new images, and copy to create a new variation:

We moved the screenshots of the product and templates lower on the page and introduced a new hero image that set the scene for the party of their dreams. We used certain colors (green and purple) to heighten our emotional triggers and rewrote the entire page to focus on their pains, hesitations, concerns and desired outcome).

These changes led to 12% increase in downloads, 18% increase in registrations and 42% increase in revenue.

The main reason this test had such a large impact on the bottom line is because it resonated to people on the emotional level vs. the transactional level.

Related: Leveraging emotions and celebrity to increase brand recall

These prospects could immediately see what’s in it for them rather than what the product does. It grabbed people’s’ attention and convinced them to take the time to consider this service.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, grab your prospect’s attention, and create high-converting experiences, you must create those emotional connections between your brand and prospects.

And most importantly, you need to make everything about them.

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