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When it comes to web development and design, conversion rates can be considered one of the most useful way to judge a site’s effectiveness – but what are they? In short, conversion rates are the percentage of site visitors who take the actions you wish them to take while using your site. This might be as simple of subscribing to a mailing list, to purchasing products or services.

Conversion rates are useful to keep in mind from the very beginning of website development: considering exactly what you wish your visitors to do will help you to define your goals more easily, and give you a solid usage metric to help you improve your site over time. Ultimately, a good version rate can have a bigger impact on your business and your bottom line than many other variables.

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Once you’ve decided exactly what it is you want your visitors to do, it’s time to look into ways to get them to undertake that action as often as possible. Many of the tips and tricks are applicable across many ways of marketing, but some are specific to web development. After all, a good website acts as advertisement, branding, store and service all in one, and streamlining all those strands can be difficult. Often, simplicity is king, and in a market where time spent looking is generally counted in seconds rather than minutes, having the simplest possible approach to guiding your potential clients from interested to invested is generally a good idea.

One popular theory behind this approach is known as Hick’s Law, which states that the time it takes for an individual to make a decision is directly proportionate to the possible choices he or she has. In practice this means that offering simple and limited choices from the outset is more likely to bring in custom than an overwhelming array of options. For the most part, this is down to reducing the amount of time someone needs to make a decision, as generally, the longer people have to think about the options they have, the more they weight the decision they’ll make.

Keeping with the idea of time being the most valuable commodity, it’s important to have a site that runs slickly and smoothly. One study shows that a one second delay in page load times resulted in a 7% reduction in conversions! Having sturdy and reliable technology behind your site is also essential – ultimately, the aim is to make your users browsing experience to be as effortless and quick as possible.

How quick? It’s generally accepted that you have 8 seconds (or thereabouts) to keep someone’s attention long enough to make a sale online. All your design and development should be geared to what you can accomplish with 8 seconds of someone’s time. How can you make your mission statement boldly, clearly, and concisely? How can you catch someone’s eye the instant they land on the page? Is the call to action bold, visible, easy to navigate? Again, it’s worth keeping in mind that losing a second to a page loading is equivalent to cutting 1/8 of the time you have to make a sale – so make sure all your media and content loads as instantly as possible.

Lastly, be welcoming. Have a friendly face, or comfortable copy, or anything that makes your service less intimidating. The majority of your custom will most likely come from people who are not experts in what you provide – and the experts will be more interested in the specifics than your web design anyway. Making your site easy and a pleasure to use is a sure-fire way to increase conversion rates, particularly with products that can seem overwhelming. Consider it service with a smile, in web form, and you’ll understand just how effective it can be.