What should be included in your brand guidelines

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Designing a Website that Converts

As a website designer, I love to dig deep into the ins and outs of making scroll-stopping websites that convert visitors into paying clients. If you’re a numbers nerd like me about that kind of thing, then you’ve probably done the math before on your website’s conversion rate! Did you know that the average conversion rate for websites is between two and five percent? 

If you can boost that number over the five percent mark, your website is considered BETTER than average at converting website traffic to sales. So, how does your site stack up? This is definitely one of those times I want to be above average and ahead of the curve, and you probably do, too!

But if you’re not getting the results you want from your website, you might ask yourself where you went wrong and why your website isn’t converting into sales. Can I tell you a secret? If you want to stand out from the crowd, having a website for your business is not enough. You’ll need to get strategic about the nitty-gritty details of your site, get inside potential clients’ heads, and communicate with clarity!  

Today, let’s chat about the five most common mistakes I see people make on websites – a.k.a. some of the biggest obstacles that can stand between you and more sales. But even if you see something on the list that is live on your website this very minute, don’t worry! I’ve also included tips on how to fix these common mistakes and get your website back on track ASAP.


Mistake #1: There’s no clear path through your site

People often get so caught up checking the boxes of creating the “must-have” pages and putting SEO in place but forget to plan out where people will go next once they’ve landed on your site. Of course, driving traffic to your site is a super important step in connecting with clients! But what happens after people get there? Are users left up to their own devices to find out who you are, what you do, and how you can help them? With some intention, you can lead people from your homepage through your site to learn more about you, your brand, and your offer. In other words, you might think of your website as a sales funnel, but it absolutely is! 

The fix:

Planning out a detailed site map before you even start designing pages will give you a birds-eye view of all the paths someone might take through your site. I like to make an outline to hone in on the intention of every page and answer the question, “what comes next?” Once I know the specifics of those two goals, I’m able to design a user experience that will guide visitors through a strategic sales funnel as part of a website that converts.


Mistake #2: Bogging down your site with animations

Animations on your site can catch viewers’ attention, encourage user interaction, and make your site feel more fresh and modern. That said, when there are so many cool visuals you could add to a site, sometimes it’s hard to know when you should add them – or when you’ve reached the limit of what’s effective vs. distracting. I know from experience that it’s a delicate balance of using enough animations to engage visitors without overdoing it! It’s easy to go overboard and leave viewers feeling out of control and overloaded – which almost always leads to them leaving your site before becoming your next client! 

The fix:

In short, use animations sparingly and wisely! In my designs, I pass on some of the flashier effects, like automatic scrolling. I prefer more subtle options, like one word of animated text in an otherwise static headline. That’s enough to draw the eye without leading to visual overwhelm!


Mistake #3: Too much content, not enough strategy

I see this happen the most in the portfolio and testimonial sections of websites. When it comes to marketing, I totally get how transparency can seem like the right move! You want potential clients to have as much information as possible about you and your business, with plenty of examples of how you’ve helped other clients succeed. So, you add every single project you’ve worked on and a stack of testimonials to help them see how great your work is. But there is such a thing as TOO much information. Site visitors can get confused or overrun by the sheer volume of information, especially if a project doesn’t seem relevant to their needs. More than anything, people want to know how you can help them! 

The fix:

Let go of the belief that you should share every project and client you’ve worked with! I promise you it’s possible to be transparent and strategic. You can highlight only some projects and reviews and still build trust. Try to have a specific goal in mind for each piece of work you share on your site; think about who your ideal client is, and then consider which parts of your portfolio make up the highlight reel to show them you’re the perfect fit.


Mistake #4: You’re not building enough connection

Even if you’ve created a beautiful website and done amazing work in your niche, converting website traffic to sales can be challenging. It takes a LOT of trust for someone to do business with someone they found on the internet! Most of the time, it will take additional touchpoints for someone to get to know you and make it from the starting point of cold lead all the way to conversion. As Seth Godin once said, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.” If potential clients can find the YOU in your site, it’s easier to build know, like, and trust in your brand.

The fix:

Of course, custom brand photos are a great place to start! But even if you need to use stock photos for some image slots on your website, feature at least one headshot of you looking at the camera and smiling, so people connect a face with your brand. While the rest of your site should be all about your services and talking to the client, the about page is your place to shine, share about yourself, and create a human-to-human connection! Include your email address, links to social media and podcasts you’ve been featured on, and encourage people to reach out and get to know you!


Mistake #5: Your contact form is too complicated

As service providers, we get excited whenever someone is interested in doing business with us! We have a million questions, we love details, and we want to know EVERYTHING about someone’s business. It all comes from a place of wanting to be prepared and offer a potential client fantastic service. But from the client’s standpoint, it can feel cumbersome to jump through a bunch of hoops to get in touch with someone! It’s tempting to ask everything you want to know on the first contact form, but most of those questions don’t need to be answered until much later in the client’s journey. Ultimately, your goal should be to make it as simple as possible for people interested in your product or service to reach out to you.

The fix:

Keep your initial contact form uber-easy to fill out! I always recommend collecting the essential information you’d need to reach back out and a few short questions about the scope of the project. On my own contact form, I keep things short and sweet. Once clients have submitted their details, the following screen is a shortcut to “skip the line” and book a discovery call on my calendar. Not everyone will sign up for a call if you do this on your site, and that’s OK! However, it gives people the option to go ahead and book a call while they’re on your site, without having to go back to their inbox and click through an email message. Remember: you want to make it effortless to get in touch with you! 


With a few quick tweaks, you’re on your way to a website design that converts clients!

If you’ve been looking for ways to design a website that converts, these five fixes will steer you in the right direction. As you’ve read through the list, if you recognize something from your site, you can still have a website that works for you and helps you connect with more aligned clients! With an honest assessment and a handful of small changes, you will convert website traffic to sales in no time. 

Tired of trying DIY your way to the website of your dreams (that helps you convert website traffic to sales)? Head over to my new Launch Week service! In just one week, you can have an expertly-designed website that sells your services for you and attracts ideal clients on autopilot!

Steph O'Keefe, SEO strategist and WordPress designer sitting at desk wearing a white shirt in Raleigh, NC.

I'm Steph!

I'm the Founder and creative Director behind Southern Creative, a.k.a. your SEO strategist and web designer.

My passion is crafting websites rooted in strategy so you can put your focus where your heart is while we launch your dream website that shows up online.