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Design for Conversions Recap

Tarek El Deeb

Storyblok recently sponsored Design for Conversions, a meeting point for industry-leading experts to showcase how to increase your sales by putting people first, hosted by Piccia Neri, an experienced creative director and designer. The four day long conference features talks from Brent Weaver, CEO of UGURUS, Billy Carlson, Design Educator at Balsamiq, along with many other design specialists. Please see our recap of the event and our key takeaways below:

Section titled Crucial Tweaks Crucial Tweaks

Day one of the Design for Conversions conference began with UX hero Joe Natolis’ open discussion ‘Increase Your Sales By Putting People First’ about the user experience from a design perspective, along with the key ‘truths’ that every organization should follow in terms of simplifying and familiarizing their UX journey for the consumer. In Joe’s experience, the user experience is full of little pain points that can be easily remedied to make it easy for people to buy from you.

One of the first truths that the host, Piccia Neri, and Joe discuss and agree on is the Nielsen Norman Group’s definition of user experience. ‘User experience encompassed all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.’  

Cursor making a choice between two options.

Joe also lightly touched on heat maps aka eye tracking. In his experience, heat maps are useful, informative, and provide valuable information. However, these heat maps need to be taken with a ‘monstrous’ grain of salt. The reason being that heat maps only record ‘foveal fixation’ which is only where/what your eye is focused on. The problem with this is that research has shown that roughly 75% of a person’s vision is peripheral, meaning that even though your eye isn’t focused on these areas, your brain is still absorbing information from these areas.

One truth that Joe emphasized heavily on is that ‘Just by making a few crucial tweaks to the UI, you could see your conversion increase exponentially.’ While running through a few examples of sub-par UX design, Joe made it clear that there are some very simple and quick solutions to cleaning up your UX that will essentially make your consumer journey much easier and more familiar for your customers, such as making a better use of space so that users can scan your website in less time, as well as using images that are relevant, useful and real along with simplifying checkout processes.

Section titled Design Thinking Design Thinking

The conference continued with a session with Vincent Brathwaite, talking about and analyzing Design Thinking. Vincent started by describing what Design Thinking is, and he broke it down as follows.

Design Thinking is a human-centered problem-solving process. It’s a thought process that takes into account aspects of cognitive psychology, design & design principles, research, and looks at all these aspects to create a process that allows problems to be solved. This is the essence of Design Thinking. Essentially, Design Thinking is a useful way to look at your problems and use creative means to solve them or work your way around them.

The process of Design Thinking is fairly straightforward:

  1. Discovery
  2. Analysis & Engagement
  3. Ideas
  4. Testing & Solutions
The Design Thinking process in an image.

Vincent recommends interviewing your users; speak to the people. Find out what their habits are, how they have engaged with your site, what they’ve faced. Get an understanding of what’s occurring for them. That will be profound because it will give you access to what you are doing well and what you need to improve on. When using Design Thinking properly you become an invaluable resource for the client, as it is a process available to everyone, not just companies with the big bucks, and also applies to virtually any kind of project.

Section titled Customers First Customers First

In the final session of the day, a panel discussion between Owais Khan, Arsalan Sajid from Cloudways & Piccia Neri discussed ‘Using a UX Process to Build a Product that Grows Your Customer Base.’ All three panel members had been working on a project called The Agency Partnership Program, a program in which, according to Piccia, proved how a company can succeed and grow by putting its customers at the center. Owais chimed in to mention that they put a lot of emphasis on UX whether they were discussing marketing or sales or a new product, etc. 

Two happy faces mid conversation.

To achieve this, they followed the UX process, which is research, followed by design, and finally validation. Creating an ideal persona is an important part of the research phase, with the intention being for Cloudways to become a partner, providing peace of mind, so that agencies can focus more on what they do best. Piccia wrapped up the panel by sharing her main tip: Always put the customer’s perspective first; research, validate and be open to change.

Section titled The Marketing Value of a Content-First Approach The Marketing Value of a Content-First Approach

Day two of the conference started out with an interview with Andrea Zoellner from Kinsta, unpacking ‘The Marketing Value of a Content-First Approach.’ Andrea first explained that content-first marketing means banking on the value of helpful blog posts, e-books, and audio or video content to attract potential customers, while strategically using relevant and well-cadenced email content to turn potential customers into paying ones. 

Andrea advised that getting in touch with your customer base can impact how you construct and write your marketing content. At Kinsta for example, they use automation to perceive user behavior as well as repeat behaviors and build on that knowledge. With every content interaction, leads are telling you what they are interested in, whether they’re a good fit for your product, and what your next move should be.

An effect of this approach that Andrea noticed was that when you have a strong content-marketing strategy, potential customers on sales calls are more knowledgeable and comfortable talking to a sales person, which leads to faster sales cycles. 

After receiving feedback from your customers, Andrea explained that you need to close the feedback loop by checking in on how the content is performing, not just through clicks and views but using actual sales metrics. 

Andrea wrapped up her interview by sharing her one main tip: ‘Figure out a way, on your website, for people to join with a mailing list or subscribe.’ That way, people will have an attachment to you and it gives you the opportunity to continue that conversation once they engage with you.

Section titled Start from Pen and Paper Start from Pen and Paper

The second session of the day was an interview with balsamiq’s Billy Carlson, talking about ‘Content-led Design with Wireframes.’ Content-first design is a mental attitude: determining the content that you’ll need to build or fix the project. Billy uses an example of helping the content creation team by giving them a wireframe, essentially showing them the spaces allotted for content, which in turn might help facilitate their job.

Pencil writing on a paper.

Billy explains that wireframes are designed to be criticized, to be conversation starters, to give feedback. It’s because they don’t look like an actual product but just a sketch of an idea, naturally people will feel less intimidated and be open to welcome feedback. Use wireframes to allocate space for content and give it to your client.

At the end of his interview Billy’s final tip was ‘When you start a new project involving design and coding, get a pen and paper out and start from sketching.’ Even if you think you know what you want to do, don’t start with the high-power tools, start with the low-power tools. Grab a pen and paper, sketch it out, build a wireframe, and take it from there.

Section titled The Hidden Cost of Bad Design The Hidden Cost of Bad Design

One of the last sessions was Brent Weaver’s interview talking about ‘The Hidden Cost of Bad Design.’ Brent makes the argument that if you have a group of people or stakeholders that you are ignoring on your website, this can result in hidden costs, especially if you bring in an outsourced firm to redesign your website and continue to ignore those stakeholders.

Image of an unhappy customer.

Brent shared one of his learnings from experience ‘Design is not art: it is commercial.’ Over the course of many years working in different departments, from design to sales etc, Brent learned that ultimately we are all selling, all the time, and so one of the most important skills to learn is how to sell, even as a designer.

The interview wrapped up with Brent sharing one final piece of golden advice. ‘If you’re not passing the template test, hire a designer or use existing templates.’ Something that Brent noticed over time is that many companies skimp on the design aspect of their work, and so he recommends that if your templates are not passing the template test or are not better than the templates available on the marketplace, and in situations like these, you need to take a step back and look at hiring designers to take the lead.

Section titled Key Takeaways  Key Takeaways 

The conference was an eye-opening experience about the depth of design when it comes to the user journey. All the small details matter, and the best way to create the user journey is to speak to the users themselves, learn from them, be open to change, and adapt. While there are definitely downsides to bad design, creating a user experience by putting your users and customers first will certainly boost your sales.