One of the statements I hear most often from site owners has to do with the cost of design and usually goes something like this: “I’m building (or rebuilding) a site but don’t have $__ to spend on a fancy design.”
My response is always something like, “nor is that needed.”
Many a site owner or manager will attest to the fact that improving the design of a site has boosted sales.
Long before the words exit my mouth I’m aware that 99.999 percent of the time anything I say falls on deaf ears and the person either cans their project or runs off to get quotes from designers. I still say it, nevertheless, because the tiny percentage of people left over might listen and they might save themselves months of development time spare themselves a big, unnecessary expense.
Often too much emphasis is placed on the importance of design. Anyone who remembers the Coca-Cola failure known as “New Coke” has a solid real-world example of just how unimportant design can be. If you want to focus on packaging something, focus on packaging and presenting content, not packaging a web site.
Aesthetic design is most important to site owners, webmasters and affiliates. The average customer couldn’t care less about the design of your site as long as it appears trustworthy and legitimate and it’s easy for them to use.
Historically it’s been the most successful companies with the most in-house resources who make the least amount of customization.
I believe this is something to take a cue from but we must also keep in mind that the bigger companies are often also the ones who stagnate the most and are most at risk for falling behind current trends. The goal is a happy medium between not doing enough and wasting time and money on things that don’t matter.
From my own experience with hundreds of projects I’ve learned that more time spent on perfecting a site rarely, if ever, results in more sales. The exception would be a truly custom site or a novel service or idea that needs an equally original site to really convey its concept or provide a certain feel.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of room for customizations and many a site owner or manager will attest to the fact that improving the design of a site has boosted sales.
Here are five tips for designing a site that sells without breaking your budget:
CHOOSE WISELY AND SPEND SPARINGLY ON GRAPHICS
Often a nice header design and a few nice looking background elements and buttons are all that’s needed to theme a site and make it look good. Clean and inviting should always be the goal. This is the look you’re after. Creativity is not a bad thing but most of the time a web site is not the best medium for creative expression. Remember that despite the entertainment nature of the site, at the end of the day the purpose of the site is to conduct the business of content sales.
USE DESIGN ELEMENTS TO HELP CLOSE SALES, NOT IMPRESS CUSTOMERS VISUALLY
For example, a header graphic with a few strategically chosen images and a few of the site’s key selling points still get the job done. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it takes a dazzling rotating display to compete in today’s world. People pay far more attention to content and the site’s message than they do its design elements.
KEEP THINGS FAMILIAR
Resist the temptation to come up with a new and creative site design that jumps off the page by remembering that customers find comfort in what’s familiar. Make sure basic elements are in the locations people expect them and that navigation is clearly defined and easy to use. Site layout, presentation, useability and strategic placement of the right sales copy and call to action prompts are more important to the sales process than the design itself. Make small changes that can make a big impact. Rearrange things here and there and add a few strategic graphics, change thumbnail sizes or the layouts of your update previews. Often subtle, easy to make changes go a long way to make a site look brand new and appear modern and fresh to visitors.
FOCUS ON CONVEYING TRUST
Spend more time on presenting the message of your site and your company than on eye candy. Merge messages with design using graphical representations to help seal the deal. This might mean placing an approved or top rated emblem or badge in the site’s header or on a graphic in the middle of a page, a security icon or other visual elements that can accompany your content and make people feel confident that yours is a site they want to join.
DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL
Keep it simple. Fancy graphics and sliders and things that fade and rotate and look cool and make site owners and webmasters say “WOW!” This isn’t what customer’s care about. Just as we buy a can or bottle of Coke for the soda inside, an adult site subscriber is paying for your content, not the design of its packaging. Focus on your content and make it look good. Remove any dull, washed out images and don’t showcase old stale content on your tours. Keep things fresh and new and accompany content with enticing sales text to connect with visitors.
AJ Hall is a 12-year adult industry veteran and the co-founder and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult CMS software for the online adult entertainment industry. Elevated X powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for industry awards 11 times and won the 2012 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.