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Visual design is all about making things pretty, right? Not quite. When it comes to digital content like emails and landing pages, design brings much more to the table than superficial aesthetics. Designing for conversions has the power to turbocharge KPIs like open rates, click through rates and, ultimately, revenue. In one A/B test conducted by Hubspot, just changing the CTA button color from green to red boosted conversions by 21%. Talk about low-effort, high reward.
Of course, designing for conversions goes much deeper than choosing the right color. It’s an almost psychological practice that starts with deeply understanding your customer and ends with…well, it never really ends.
Principles for designing for conversions
At its core, strategic design is a dynamic process that builds on user research and response. There are no one-size-fits-all rules and no such thing as a perfectly optimized campaign. In other words, just because Hubspot’s audience prefers red CTA buttons over green, doesn’t mean yours will. And even if green wins out in one of your campaigns, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for every campaign moving forward.
There are, however, best practices for optimizing design for conversion. Strategically design your emails from header to footer using these three principles.
Determine your purpose
Like most good things in life, designing a good email starts with defining a goal. “If you can’t answer the question, ‘Why am I sending this email?’, then don’t send it,” says email marketing consultant Jordie van Rijn.
After all, it’s impossible to design for conversion if you aren’t exactly sure what it is you want to convert your audience to. Visual hierarchies, imagery and CTA buttons can only be determined after you decide on an end goal.
Before you start creating something new, ask yourself what action you want your audience to take. Be careful about assuming that every email is about selling. The customer journey consists of many steps and sometimes the action that you need your customer to take is more nuanced than “buy now”.
Reasons for sending an email (that aren’t selling):
- Nurture your audience
- Re-engage your email list
- Prevent churn
- Onboard customers
- Confirm transactions
Even if your primary goal is to sell, your email’s function is to get the customer to a landing page where they can learn more about your product or service. That may seem like a small shift, but it provides the clarity needed to streamline your design process.
Know your audience (and your competition)
It’s great to stand out in the inbox, but sending an email that feels too unfamiliar will result in confusion.
Audiences convert when they understand what’s going on. For that reason, it’s vital to do your due diligence to find out what they already receive in their inbox. Is it mostly image-based or text-heavy? Minimalist or bold? Short and sweet or multiple scrolls?
Knowing which design elements your audience is most familiar with allows you to pick and choose what to imitate and where you can differentiate.
It’s also vital to know where and how your audience opens their emails, both in terms of mobile vs. desktop and which email service provider they’re likely to use.
Responsive design guarantees that your email will render in most environments, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the email will be optimized across the board. It also doesn’t consider that consumers use different devices for different purposes.
For example, while the majority of emails are likely to be open for the first time on mobile, consumers still prefer to make purchases on desktop or laptops. And if an email is read on mobile and then read for a second time on desktop, there’s a 65% higher likelihood of clicking through.
What this means is different environments elicit different behaviors. So it’s vital to understand how your consumers are interacting with your emails. Since it’s likely that they’re using both desktop and mobile, use mobile design mode to optimize your design to look exactly like you intend it to on all devices.
Test design elements
Optimizing design relies on continuous feedback. But that doesn’t mean you should use a completely different design every time you send an email. In fact, consistent design will keep you out of the spam box.
What you can (and should) do, is choose one design element to A/B test each time you send an email. Here are some ideas for design elements you can test:
- F vs Z pattern
- Heavier or less heavy image density
- Multi-column vs single-column sections
- Hyperlink color
- CTA button color
In addition to quantitative data (open rate, click through rate, etc), look at qualitative data to understand how your users react to emails. At least once per year, dig deeper by conducting user surveys or interviews with active subscribers.
Designing with BEE Pro
Good email design walks a tightrope between consistency and flexibility. Headers, footers and branding elements appear throughout all campaigns. But because different emails serve different purposes, it’s vital to adapt formats, fonts and other elements to optimize conversions.
When emails and landing pages take days or weeks to create, going through design best practices like A/B testing or mobile design is tedious at best. Our team created BEE Pro with features like co-editing, branding kits and mobile design mode to give teams ultimate design freedom and the ability to optimize processes that get your email as close to perfect as possible. Check it out here.
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