Website Usability and Design for Lead Generation

Think of your website's utility and usability as the baseline for your website lead generation strategy. A website that looks great can only get you so far. You need your website to be functional. By functional, your website has to be logical to the buying personas visiting it, must do what you intend it to do (inform visitors and move them along the lead lifecycle), and should provide clear conversion paths for your viewers.

To be truly effective with your website design, you need to take a user-centric approach to your thinking — how does a viewer consume information, where is she most likely to click, and how does he want to navigate your site?

If you are only thinking in terms of raw lead generation and bombarding your viewers with a million calls-to-action in hopes of throwing some spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks, you will likely find that your website isn't very effective at actually generating qualified leads.

Instead, think about how you view a website. Where do you navigate to? What are some examples of where you have bounced off of the site due to poor usability? Also, think of some websites that you really admire. Who does a good job at telling you exactly what to do and how to do it?

Make your website scannable

If you understand how your visitors think about navigating a website, you can make smarter choices. Make sure that your calls-to-action (CTAs) are clear and your content concise.

A recent usability study conducted by Jakob Nielson, principal analyst at Nielson Norman Group, claims that website viewers only read about 28 percent of the text on a web page. Therefore, you need to make your point as quickly and concisely as possible. For instance, if you want to include a tagline on your home page, make sure that it illustrates what your company does. Also, be sure to break up the text with headings and subheadings to optimize for website skimming.

You can also implement a heat mapping technology such as Crazy Egg to get a better visualization of where people click, where they scroll, and how they interact and read your website. This can help you make better decisions when it comes to how you lay out your text and where you put your CTAs. The following figure shows an example of Crazy Egg heat mapping — the darker areas on the heat map show where a visitor clicks, scrolls, or interacts with the page in some way.

A Crazy Egg heat map.
A Crazy Egg heat map.

Implementing clear conversion paths

For a website visitor to become a lead, you have to tell him where to go and what you want him to do. This sounds easy, but in reality can be quite difficult, especially if multiple groups within your company have input into what goes on your website. Smashing Magazine explains, "If the navigation and site architecture aren't intuitive, the number of question marks grows and makes it harder for users to comprehend how the system works and how to get from point A to point B. A clear structure, moderate visual cues, and easily recognizable links can help users find their path and aim."

Most likely, when a viewer comes to your site, she knows what she is looking for. Whether it is your latest content asset, or a product demo, show her where to go so that she can download that asset or fill out a form for that demo, quickly.

Take a look at the next figure, which illustrates Salesforce's home page navigation. If you are looking for information about one of their products, you can easily head to the Products tab, where they give a breakdown of each product they offer and a brief descriptor. Or if you were looking for information on what industries they serve, you can easily navigate to the Industries page for a clear breakdown. Their navigation is intuitive and easy.

Many marketers attempt to put a creative spin on navigation verbiage — thinking that it looks more creative and appealing to the viewer. However, nothing beats good old-fashioned simplicity when dealing with the equivalent of virtual signposts on your website. Cute or witty synonyms for navigation verbiage only serve to puff up a marketer's ego at the cost of leads that leave your site because they're confused about where to go. Remember, you're a click away from being abandoned, so keep it simple.

After a viewer successfully finds the information he needs, make it easy for him to click on the correct CTA or fill out the right download form.

Salesforce's website has intuitive navigation.
Salesforce's website has intuitive navigation.

Improve website readability

The other key item to keep in mind is your website readability. Viewers like to scan, so your copy must be clear, concise, and readable. In fact, according to the usability study conducted by Jakob Nielson, "A 58 percent increase in website usability can be achieved simply by cutting roughly half of the words on a website page."

Using too many fancy words that take up room but leave the visitor uninformed as to what your business does helps no one. Make sure your vocabulary is appropriate for someone at a more junior reading level. This is not to say your viewers are not intelligent, but it means you should keep concepts straightforward and concise.

So many marketers are stuck on wordy descriptors, but try to view your website as more utilitarian — the shorter, the better.

To get a sense of where your site ranks on the readability scale, check out www.read-able.com. This is a free readability test tool. Simply type in your website's URL to get a readability score and explanation.

Most often, your viewers are going to scan for keywords that are applicable to what they are looking for on your website, so make sure your main points and keywords are front and center. Consider putting them in your headings and breaking up each page by using strategically placed bullet points. This focuses your readers' attention so they know exactly what they should be looking at.

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