User experience design, also known as UX design, is one of the hottest topics in inbound marketing. According to Wikipedia, UX design "is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product." For purposes of this discussion, the "product" is an inbound marketing website.
For most CEOs, the branding and design elements of their websites are secondary to the website's ability to produce business results. For purposes of our discussion, let's define business results as leads. Think about it this way - would you rather have a site that is pretty enough to be in the National Gallery of Art or one that is a lead generation machine? I think most CEOs would choose the lead generation machine.
Not to say that functionality and attractiveness are mutually exclusive. Leonardo da Vinci said, "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." User experience design incorporates psychological concepts with deeply rooted human instincts. (Think about the portion of the brain known as the amygdala, which is the basis of the human "fight or flight" instinct.)
So with no further ado, here are 4 UX concepts that every CEO should know.
Contrast and Color
Let's talk about the amygdala, the portion of the brain that gave use the "fight or flight" instinct. In pre-historic times, man's ability to notice contrast in his environment could literally mean the difference between life and death. Our pre-disposition to notice contrast and colors that don't blend in is one of the basic elements of UX design.
Here's a screenshot of the Rapidan Inbound homepage that shows how a bright orange color is used to make 2 important elements of the page attract a user's attention. Notice how the orange color of the two lead generation calls-to-action stands out against the mostly dark background. These are two of the best-performing CTAs on the site.
There is a phrase in German that describes this concept - die qual der Wahl. It means the torture of choosing. Most websites offer far too many choices to visitors. Why is this a problem? Doesn't it follow that the more choices you offer someone, the more likely they are to choose something?
Actually, exactly the opposite is true. In 2000, psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted an experiment to measure the effect of choice on decision-making. A Harvard Business Review article entitled "More Isn't Always Better" described it this way,
"On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. The large display attracted more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display."
Does your website put potential customers in a state of "analysis paralysis?" Limit the amount of choices you give them and use color and contrast to make the choices clear.
The eye is drawn towards directional cues. If you see an arrow pointing to where you want to go, you instinctually follow it. Unbounce describes the effectiveness of directional cues this way:
"As directional cues, arrows are about as subtle as a punch in the face, which is why they work so well. With so little time on your page, visually guiding the user to the checkout is a smart move."
Another effective way to use directional cues is to have a photo of a person gazing in the direction of your CTA. Our brains are hard-wired to follow the gaze of the person to see what they're looking at.
Here's how we used directional cues to guide users to one of the CTAs on the Rapidan Inbound site. (Notice how the highway dividing lines converge on the CTA.)
Whitespace is your friend. Whitespace provides an area of "emptiness" which magnifies the importance of your CTA (or other user action you want to encourage.)
Too many websites try to pack as much text and marketing information as possible in valuable real estate. You're much better off focusing on one or two key user actions and using whitespace to direct attention towards them.
Apple does an excellent job with whitespace on their website. Notice how the whitespace focuses your attention on the iPad Pro in the example below.
For most executives, the primary purpose of their websites is to generate leads. The first step in maximizing lead generation is to use the UX concepts described above to create an easy to follow path for your website visitors to raise their hands and become leads.