This post is adapted from part one of our free eBook series, How to Brief a Web Design Agency.

Download your copy today, and discover the 17 mistakes marketers make when briefing web developers (and how to avoid them!).

The way we talk about conversion and web development at ClickThrough is a little different to what you might be used to.

For us, conversion is one of the main driving forces that influences design. This means carrying out clear conversion planning before we’ve even created any design mock-ups. This, in turn, ensures that every design decision is geared towards converting customers – and getting great results for our clients.

In this post, we’ll show you the three biggest conversion-related mistakes marketers make when briefing a web development agency. And where conversion blunders happen, design suffers too.

Get everything straightened out in your brief, and – believe us – everything will be easier further down the line…

1. No Clear Conversion Plan

The majority of web build projects don’t give enough consideration to conversion planning.

Each of your website visitors will be at a unique point in their path to purchase. Each will have fears that need addressing, and questions that need answering.

The classic model most marketers turn to for planning conversion optimisation is the purchase funnel, which can be visualised like this:

The traditional purchase funnel.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this model, the basic idea is that the vast majority of users will enter the funnel at the ‘awareness’ stage.

Some will drop out at that point, and those that remain will move on to the ‘opinion’ stage. This continues until a few crucial customers – typically far fewer than the numbers that entered the top of the funnel – will make a purchase.

But in today’s digital world, the simple ‘path to purchase’ modelled in the conversion funnel is a little too simple. A vastly competitive market and an increasingly web- savvy audience have created a landscape in which marketers must work harder to influence each individual user at every stage of their conversion journey.

If you build your website to cater only to those customers who are at the bottom of the funnel (‘Purchase’) – i.e. those who are ready to buy – you risk losing users who are still in the research stage (‘Awareness’/’Opinion’). If their needs and concerns aren’t addressed, these users may leave the site and choose a competitor instead.

This is where conversion planning comes into the equation. A clear conversion plan is essential if you want your website to meet the needs of visitors at different stages of the funnel.

For example, it’s advisable to display different types of content or calls to action to cater to customers all the way down the funnel – from ‘Awareness’ to ‘Purchase’ .

2. Not Defining Target Personas

Creating ‘personas’ of your website visitors is a powerful technique for planning a conversion- and user-centric design.

A persona is a fictional character that broadly represents the personalities, needs, challenges and motivations of a section of your user base.

A group of personas in silhouette.

By creating personas, you can work out who your website visitors are, so you can structure your design, content and calls to action to satisfy their needs and influence their decisions. Done well, they allow you to design the best user experience for your customers at all touch points.

A persona for a B2B business, for example, might include information on his or her company role, work-related challenges and goals, personal ambitions and specific duties – as well as personal characteristics like name, age, marital status and so on.

You should try to paint as clear a picture as possible of your target personas – don’t be afraid to include specific personal information, as well as calls to action and content that might appeal to them. The idea is to ‘get to know’ this section of your target audience, so you can target them on a personal level.

Target personas for web build projects might also include information on web/ technical experience, how often they use the Internet, where and how they access the Internet, favourite sites, and social media usage.

We recommend creating at least three target personas, ideally more. As a rule, the more you can create – without them becoming unwieldy and complicated – the better you can seek to influence specific customer behaviours.

We also recommend choosing one primary persona, which will guide the web build process overall. Your primary persona should be a key customer target, and you should be confident that you can satisfy most of your other personas’ needs if you fulfil the needs of your primary persona.

3. Letting HiPPOs Get Too Involved

Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms are big risks for SEO. But when it comes to managing web build projects, you should fear a different species altogether – the HiPPO.

A real-life hippo, looming.

HiPPO stands for ‘Highly Paid Person’s Opinion’ , or alternatively ‘Highest Paid Person in Organisation’.

The Hippo in your organisation could be the CEO, or the MD. It could even be you.

HiPPOs have typically found success by following their instincts. Their gut decisions have gotten great results in the past, and more often than not, they’re right.

For example, the HiPPO might say “I don’t like that navigation, the position of that form and colour of that button.”

But the question is: Has the agency proposed this setup because they have evidence from other projects that it will convert better?

Getting web development right relies on a balance of design, technical, conversion and search expertise. It’s a balancing act, and it calls for a scientific, evidence-led approach.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t value a HiPPO’s intuition. But you shouldn’t let it guide the project. Testing, data and evidence are the key ingredients of a marketing- focussed website. Intuition, whether it’s right or not, only gets in the way of the recipe.

Other Posts in This Series

Communication Mistakes to Avoid

Budgeting Mistakes to Avoid

Planning and Scoping Mistakes to Avoid

SEO and Content Mistakes to Avoid

Technical Mistakes to Avoid

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ClickThrough is a digital marketing agency, providing search engine optimisation, pay per click management, conversion optimisation, web development and content marketing services.