Landing pages are a common victim of neglect from website owners and designers alike. Often underused and undervalued it’s a shame to see so many of them underperform when they should play a key role in closing leads.
A good landing page sits right at the end of the conversion process, with a focused message designed to make users take that final step and buy into one of your clients’ products or services. The action users take (or don’t) on these pages are among the most valuable – and if you master the art of designing landing pages that convert, you’ll be irresistible to clients willing to pay good money to get results.
The role of landing pages and when to use them
The role of a landing page is to convert visitors with a specific offer, product or service – typically something that’s being promoting elsewhere on the web. It could be an autumn sale advertised using AdWords or a new product promoted on social media. Either way, these users show an interest in something specific and a landing page gives them a direct path to turn that interest into a purchase (or some other kind of conversion).
There are some exceptions, where brands offer very niche service, and sending traffic to the homepage can work. Funnily enough, landing page experts Unbounce are a perfect example of a brand who offers something so specific their homepage essentially acts as a landing page:
In fact the only thing that really sets this apart from a true landing page is the navigation. But let’s take a look at what happens when the experts themselves create a landing page:
Here’s where I ended up after clicking an AdWords ad after searching “landing page builder” in Google. So what sets this apart from the homepage? Well, the navigation is gone for one thing and the only links on this page take you to specific parts of the course its selling.
But the key point here is how focused this landing page is. It’s promoting a course and nothing else; linking to parts of the course and nothing else. Users have shown a specific interest in this course when they clicked the ad and its down to the landing page to capitalise on this.
Landing page design best practices
As always there are a ton of landing page design best practices and guidelines for you to follow. There’s always room for creativity in this field, but in a results based industry you want to make sure you have all the fundamentals in place, before you start wielding that creative touch.
#1: Keep it focused
From the marketing message to the content, and every single design choice in between, the key is to keep things focused.
Instapaper couldn’t really come up with a more focused design here. In no more than four words they sum up everything its product is about and leave users only one click away from creating their account (hint: no form).
#2: Get a decent copy writer on board
Many of the best landing pages are light on text, but this doesn’t mean a ton of work hasn’t gone into writing their content. It’s actually incredibly difficult to write compelling copy with few words and the role of a professional copywriter is invaluable with landing pages.
From the headlines that grab user attention to the sub headings that keep them scrolling, writing copy for landing pages that convert is an art in itself. Not to mention the product descriptions and calls to action – which brings us on to our next point.
#3: Nail that call to action
Your landing pages are designed to inspire action and get results – which means you need to nail those calls to action. And with little more than a precious few words and a button at your disposal you have to make everything count.
The call to action button on this Shyp homepage is the most dominant part of the design thanks to some simple colour contrast. Three simple words are concise and to the point, but they tell users a lot about what to expect: we have an app, you’re about to download it and using our services is as easy as pulling out your phone.
#4: Get visual
There’s a real science behind using visuals in landing page design and it starts with engaging users in an instant.
In a single shot we have branded imagery that communicates the brand’s service, but also appeals to the visual expectations of its target audience. Then we have the use of script typography for the headline and that wonderful weighting of reds throughout the image – capped off by the call to action button.
Scroll down and we have high-quality imagery contrasted with stencil icons, for a visual break which adds a vital touch of balance. But the really interesting thing here is the return to images, which leaves the user looking down from a POV perspective, as if they’re already using the service.
This is one example of many visual cues you have at your disposal to entice user action and draw their attention to key parts of the page.
#5: Show the benefits
Whether you follow the salesman, copywriter or marker’s handbook, they’ll all tell you the same thing: you need to highlight the benefits, not features of your client’s services. It doesn’t matter how mundane your client’s products may be, it’s your job to create an emotional bond between them and their target audience. For example, it’s not the fast response time that sells corporate alarm systems; it’s the piece of mind they give business owners who need a good night’s sleep after they leave their property and assets unattended.
As a designer you have a huge range of tools available to help visitors visualise the benefits of products and services: images, graphics, video, type and more. But the best examples typically find a simple balance between a few options to create something striking:
Here we have the landing page for image app Over, which simply allows you to place text over existing photos. That’s an incredibly niche product, which lends to a highly focused landing page with a simple message. The copy is incredibly short, but says everything it needs to; while the visuals show users what they can so with the app – done.
Designing for more complicated products
Sadly not all products or services are as simple as Over, but you should strive to create landing pages that are equally as focused. This is more of a challenge if you have multiple benefits to communicate, but this is where visuals of people using your clients’ products or services prove invaluable. Take a look at these two examples from Panasonic:
The top image shows a couple enjoying the best of their Panasonic TV which looks like a pretty immersive experience, while the second image shows a big smile on the face of another ‘customer’ watching his favourite game on the go.
#6: Install confidence
When people part with their hard-earned cash they want to feel damn confident they’re handing it over to a safe pair of hands. If they’re not confident, they probably won’t buy and that’s a huge waste of all your landing page design efforts – so don’t let it happen.
But how you earn trust? Well, aside from your wonderful design that tells users they’re dealing with a serious company, there are numerous ways you can reinforce your landing pages to install added confidence:
- Customer reviews
- High-profile clients
- Secure payment badges
- Awards or industry recognitions
Take a look at this example from Bombfell – not only is the design super clean and professional, it assures visitors this is a brand they can trust, with customer testimonials and a list of big name publications that are talking about them.
#7: If you really need a form, keep it short
There’s a good chance your landing pages will need some sort of form, or direct them to another page, where the conversion itself happens. It’s up to you to decide whether forms will perform better on your landing page or elsewhere, but you’ll want to keep them short and snappy regardless.
Take a look at this form on the landing page at FIVESTARS – is it really necessary to ask people for company names and phone numbers? That form could be half the length, twice as enticing and less off-putting to people who don’t like giving away too much information simply for a free trial.
Landing page design is an ongoing process
Sadly, you can’t reach the dizzy heights of landing pages that convert by simply designing and handing them over to your clients. Landing page design is an ongoing process and hitting the top results calls for extensive testing and continuous improvements.
This may sound like like a tough hurdle to overcome, but you can turn it into a good opportunity for repeat work with clients if you explain the process to them properly. Incorporate conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and A/B testing into your skill set (or team up with a CRO expert) and you’ll be able to work with clients on a long-term basis to maximise the performance of your landing pages.
The great thing about landing page optimisation is you’re directly working with your clients’ bottom line. Get results and you’ll earn some stellar testimonials, build a collection of data that shows you’re a profitable designer to work with and justify charging a better rate for your efforts.