Why some websites look awesome and show high conversion while others don’t?

Is it about eye-catching design? Or is it more about “selling copy”? Well, if I knew the exact answer to this question I would probably be next to Jeff Bezos in the Forbes ranking. Still, I have some ideas that might help you figure out the secret sauce ingredients on your own.

Good vs bad design

Aren’t there some “golden ratios” that can be used in web design just like artists freely use Leonardo’s heritage for better results?

When me and my team, located in different countries across the globe, started our digital studio several years ago, we catered mostly to people we know personally. Here was a friend of mine who was building an edTech startup and needed really great UI design. There was our designer Napoleon who was bootstrapping his crowdfunding platform and he was desperate for valuable insights. What we did — we studied dozens of good and bad websites in order to find this magic formula we could use to help out our close ones (as I’m sure plenty of agencies have done before). What we came up with was pretty disappointing, on one hand, but still promising, on the other. That’s what we learned:

  1. There’s no (surprise-surprise) such thing as a “magic formula”. Some web resources are perceived as good while having some obvious flaws. Some are visited quite frequently, despite of horrific design. Some are ignored or not as popular as they might be, though their layout might be breath-taking. The best example are governmental websites, that at least here, in Europe, don’t care too much about usability, design trends or anything actually. However, they are visited by thousands, if not millions daily.
Web site for Cyprus Government is really old fashioned, thougth the country is trying it’s best to become an innovation hub in South Europe. Don’t they see a discrepancy here?!

2. There is, however, a clearer movement from over-populated with images and texts design that we saw 10 years ago to clear lines, less images and more illustrations, and very elaborate icon design. Details that are considered to be cool and very hype — like flat design in 2018, obsession with geometry in 2019, mixed font in titles in 2020, or layered “glassy” outlay this year —

Webflow site in 2018 was very “flat”
Webflow site in 2018 was very “flat”
Flat design that was considered very trendy in 2018
Startup lab website in 2019 was full of geometrical shapes
Startup lab website in 2019 was full of geometrical shapes
Geometry-based design way popular in 2019
Modern web site design is “glassy” and consists of severl layers with different ocupacity ratio
Modern web site design is “glassy” and consists of severl layers with different ocupacity ratio
2021 began with “glassy” look

— they come and go, while some important elements remain the same.

What my team and I have put in our list of important elements and what we check our websites against, no matter what:

Elements break grid alignment only for a reason

Blinkist website shows a break in grid alignment
Blinkist website shows a break in grid alignment

Actually, anything that stands out and break consistency of the web site system (it’s white spaces, font styles, typography in general) are the most valuable pieces of information.

Tasty.co landing page
Tasty.co landing page

The more Gestalt principles are used in UI — the merrier

Gestalt principles on Pinterest website
Gestalt principles on Pinterest website

Hierarchy of content and design system is a must

Elements structure on Twitch website
Elements structure on Twitch website

That is actually mostly it. Hierarchy, basic gestalt and wise conscious grid breaking — that’s what makes a difference in my opinion. Everything else is about trends, your desire to follow them and the actual nature of your business. Perhaps, it sounds reasonable to use lots of CSS text animation, plenty of glassy layers and font break if you’re a digital agency.

Digital agency web site design with tons of broken fonts
Digital agency web site design with tons of broken fonts

But if you’re a more conservative business perhaps you should go more minimalistic and humble.

Minimalist design in 2021
Minimalist design in 2021

The point, if the basic principles are missing your web site will suck.

Good vs bad copy

So, have me and my team come up with some general advice on this one as well? Actually, yes. In this article I’m going to discuss only landing pages copy, as for obvious reasons we can’t go through all the workflows. The basics you most certainly know: heading + subheading + illustration = instant impression. It all happens in a quarter of a second and if you’ve lost this battle, you probably have lost if forever with this particular user. Let’s set aside the illustration part.

Though, it’s equally important as research show that illustration that doesn’t add value to the text is more harmful than useful

Let’s see what can we do with the heading and subheading (or H1 and H2). In our we’ve noticed that:

Verbs, adverbs and any action/process oriented expressions in the heading work better than nouns

Robinhood uses active verbs in the heading
Robinhood uses active verbs in the heading

Subheading works better if it offers some very precise details or numbers

“7" website
“7" website
Webflow website in 2021
Webflow website in 2021

Targeted copy works better than generalized

Value should be emphasized instantly — within the very first lines

Jira landing page
Jira landing page

That’s probably the most important and general observations regarding copy that we’ve come up with discovering good websites. There are obviously some details when it comes down to industry specifics, but in our opinion they can all be distilled down to these use cases.

Have we figured out what makes good websites look and function good? Probably, no. There always will be ingredients to this secret sauce that are tiny but make a lot of difference (like, share cart feature in Zoom). However, it’s always better to have at least some guidelines than none at all. And that’s exactly what I hope to achieve with this article. Remind myself of important things and share them with you.

Founder and CEO @Alsmark Studio. Being a startup founder, love to help other founders on this exciting journey.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store