Using UX Design to drive your conversion rate
This article was featured in the igbaffiliate.com magazine for the London Affiliate Conference.
If we look at the top ranking affiliate sites, including the ones that have been acquired last year, we can all agree these list of popular sites have strong designers. Even the biggest igaming companies all have their own design teams that include User Experience designers (UX design). This article will feature many tips for finding a quality designer (highlighted in red and bold).
This article is broken down into the following topics
- Why, How and WTF?
- Mobile UX
- Content Marketing & Formatting
- Design Trends & Fads
- The Rise and Fall of Affiliate Sites
- Designs on a Budget
- Finding a UX Designer
- There is never a bad reason for a new design
1. Why, How and WTF?
My journey over the past 5 years has taken me on a long winding road that started with SEO, but then lead me down the path of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), which then lead me to UX Design. It’s not that I have given up on SEO, but rather I think too many affiliates and operators put too much emphasis on it and end up making sites more for a search engine than they do for a user.
To play devil’s advocate, you don’t need an attractive website for it to be effective. Part of the reason you may see dated sites do well but ‘look ugly’ is because they have quality content, they format their site properly and sometimes that ‘ugly look’ earns the trust of the user. They don’t feel like they are being sold to by professionals to them it just feels organic - as in natural.
It’s a nice luxury to have money to be able to invest in a quality UX designer but to put my foot in my mouth one more time, you don’t need money to be successful or to have a well designed website. If you are an affiliate wanting to break into the industry or grow your site, it is also a myth that you “need money to make money” - other than the fact money can help you accelerate your progress if spent wisely.
sketch website: https://www.sketchapp.com/
I could have called this section “Design Tools” but instead I chose to call it “Sketch” - mostly to attract your curiosity. For designers that use Sketch, I don’t need to say anything further. For designers that are NOT using sketch or website owners that don’t know what Sketch is, it is THE premier design tool for website designers and many website designers agree Sketch is the #1 program over Photoshop.
As a website owner that doesn’t do any design work, why should you care about sketch?
Sketch is the new standard of website design and it is a faster tool for creating designs. I can make websites faster in Sketch than I can in Photoshop and once you start using Sketch it is impossible to use Photoshop again to design websites. Sketch is also extremely fast and easy to make website wireframes and layouts before you apply a design. No doubt there are amazing website designers out there still using Photoshop, but when I know a designer is using Sketch, I know they are an up-to-date designer. I treat it like a filter for talent.
As much as I use Sketch as a filter for finding good UX designers, I think by the end of the year more and more designers will be using Sketch. Therefore, using Sketch as a keyword filter for finding talent will become less relevant.
One thing to keep in mind is that Sketch is available only for Apple computers (aka Mac) and most likely won’t be available on other operating systems anytime soon. By limiting yourself to only Sketch designers, you would be cutting off a massive part of the world that uses Windows. Many poorer countries have amazing designers that just can’t afford a Mac. Furthermore, Sketch designers are probably going to cost you more than what’s available in the global workforce of Photoshop designers.
Tip: When searching for designers or posting a job, mention Sketch as a required skill. You’ll filter out a lot of designers with sub-standard portfolios.
3. Mobile UX
Just making a website responsive is not good enough anymore. Even I have been guilty of making a desktop website first with mobile as being an afterthought telling programmers how things should work on a mobile phone. For most webmasters and operators, mobile can’t be ignored anymore especially with casinos having 3 times more mobile players than desktop users. Betting on sports? That should be done on a phone. Lottery tickets? Lotteries should all be done on your computers or phones but the process of buying a lottery ticket will be mainly a mobile thing. Knowing how important mobile is, it is important to map out the entire user experience for mobile users and put more emphasis on your mobile design than you do for your desktop. With design tools like Sketch, it makes it much easier to have your mobile designs alongside the desktop version - so your only excuse for not doing mobile wireframes and designs would be laziness.
If you want to take your mobile user experience to the next level, you can prototype the entire experience with numerous prototyping tools that exist. As much as these are tools I haven’t used yet, I have seen them touted as critical tools for mobile designing and creating layouts. These tools have come out of nowhere and they make mapping out your wireframe, layout and testing as fast as possible. You would save your designers and programmers a lot of time by being able to provide an answer to how your entire mobile user experience would be.
One tool that is receiving a lot of praise is proto.io.
Is typography really that important? It is more important than you think and affects everything you do every day including reading this article. Typography covers the choice of font, font colour, font size, typeface, line-spacing and even line-length. Imagine if everything you read had ONLY this choice of font. You’d struggle to read emails, do anything on your phone, have problems driving or finding your way through London while here.
The reality is there are many website designers that don’t understand the rules of typography and don’t have any knowledge of how it can positively or negatively can influence a website. If you start adjusting all of these aspects of your CSS for your website, you will definitely influence your website metrics like bounce rate, time on site and pages per visitor.
A few bad examples of typography that will negatively impact your website include:
- too many types of fonts used
- too light of a font on a white background
- similar fonts & backgrounds that have less contrast
- line spacing too large or too small
To learn a bit more about typography check the Wikipedia page for it which ironically enough is one of the best examples of typography that everyone takes for granted.
Tip: When hiring a designer, ask if they include in their designs or have examples of typography UI kit in their portfolio. If they don’t have a good answer on their typography preferences, it means they probably haven’t studied it let alone care for it.
5. Content Marketing & Formatting
Ok maybe content marketing is a bit of a distraction from the point of this article but if you are going to make the effort of making a site look good, make sure you put in a good effort in the quality of the content. A good design is no mask for poor content. Good content doesn’t always have to be a lot of words but usually it is with articles exceeding 1000 words. For some people that initial impression always makes a big difference. Giving your users a summary of your content with hotlinks and breaking things down into lists is what can elevate your content and make it more effective. Just hitting your users with long paragraph after paragraph doesn’t make your content inviting enough for people to read and stay on your page. Their decision to read it all or not happens quickly.
This takes us to formatting your content. This is something that many websites totally miss the mark on. When I talk about formatting, I say it’s everything including the kitchen sink! Your site metrics like bounce rate, time on site and pages per session will all be influenced on your formatting of your content. Imagine Wikipedia without formatting, it would be a nightmare to use and wouldn’t be the site it is today.
Here is a quick checklist of your content formatting
- Use of Headlines
- Images or Video
- Bold, italics and underline
- Internal links
It takes time to write a good article and it takes even more time to add in all the formatting. This means breaking your content into sections using headlines and sub-headlines, using images and/or videos to enrich the content. Using bold, italics and underline helps to accent the important parts of your paragraphs.
If there is a single thing you can do to help yourself is adding internal links for your articles. If we put aside the SEO arguments if this helps you or makes no difference then forget SEO and think about your users. If you add more internal links, and don’t go overboard, you help users find more content on your website that would be of interest. It’s up to them if they want to click on a link. However, statistics show that users are more likely to click on links when available, and that means more time on your site and more pages for them to visit rather than leaving them high and dry and bouncing away.
Case Study for thepogg.com
Thepogg.com had a large number of pages that had a lack of formatting. Hundreds of pages were updated to improve the readability and user experience and the improvements recorded were a drop in bounce rate by 4%, improved average session duration by over 50 seconds and increased pages per session by 0.65 pages per session.
6. Trends & Fads
Two fads I’ve seen come and go were the use of video backgrounds on websites and parallax scrolling. Some prominent gaming sites like Pokerstars and a few others adopted these in 2014 to 2016 but they don’t seem to use them anymore. My guess is that they realized they looked cool but didn’t keep them for performance reasons. If you look up the big name companies that used these in the past, you’ll struggle to see their continued use of them. In addition to adding more for a user to download and slowing down the website, my assumption is that part of the problem is the video is a distracting element. The video would get you to watch what’s happening but it is without sound and not much in the way of text. The call to action becomes the furthest thing from your mind and you have a site that probably underperforms compared to one with a static image.
Regarding parallax scrolling sites, these were trendy in the past few years and you might see some examples of this from affiliate program pages. They might be great to use if you are a design agency but I don’t think they have much practical purpose. Ultimately, it has the same issue as the video background website, which is it impresses users, but at the expense of losing them to make the next step of signing up or getting to the next page.
Best Designed Casino
My personal opinion of the best designed gaming site is SlotsMillion and I’d put Casumo as a close 2nd. The design of SlotsMillion I have always thought was ahead of it’s time and still is today. When it comes to presenting their slot games, they have reduced the clutter and the data that other casinos list and the end result is it’s easier to scan the catalogue of games on the site. Surprisingly I see more casino sites copying the Casumo design than SlotsMillion.
Best Designed Affiliate Portal
When AskGamblers was redesigned for the 2nd time in the past two years, I wasn’t a fan of the new design but it grew on me much like the previous design. This portal design is one of the easiest to look at and their use of ‘cards’ to guide the user is not by mistake either. I expect their design to continue to be the most copied affiliate design out there for this year much like in the past few years.
7. The Rise and Fall of Affiliate Sites
Every so often I get asked for help on a website or network of websites that were once shining stars but have fallen from grace. I also have seen the evolution of some affiliates and their network of websites. Many years of experience has given me enough insight to see what I think is important for affiliates to focus on for this year and beyond. So here is my take on what some affiliates are either not doing right - or at all - while comparing to what others are doing to be more competitive.
- Non responsive websites
- Slow loading websites
- Sites with thin content
On the rise
- Fresh designs
- Fast loading websites
- Enhanced content
If your website isn’t mobile ready then expect it to fade away. Slower loading websites are going to struggle to outrank faster loading websites. Not only is this an SEO problem, but slow loading websites will lead to less sales, higher bounce rates and less pageviews. Sites with thin content are eventually going to be outranked by sites with richer content. By richer content, I’m not talking about just better researched articles and pages that are at least a thousand words long, but also well formatted with more images and videos. It helps to work smart but this is all comes down to whom hustles the most. If your competitor is creating better content, and more of it, then they might be winning that slice of the pie at your expense.
8. Designs on a Budget
If you are an affiliate, it’s nice to know you can pull off a well designed site on a budget. You have the luxury of using a CMS like Wordpress or Ghost. Both provide free software and there are many additional free templates which you can use. If you want to use a paid template, these can vary in price but will remain affordable from only $20 to $50 USD.
You can find good Ghost templates at marketplace.ghost.org and WordPress templates at wordpress.org/themes. There is also a large supply of free themes at github.com. Simply search for the CMS you use and you’ll find numerous free templates you can download and use.
If you are looking for a better design you can find numerous themes for either CMS at themeforest.net
9. Finding a UX Designer
If you have a budget and want a custom designed website then your job should be finding the right UX designer.
Where to find talented designers
Dribbble (not a typo, there are 3 b’s) is one of the most popular websites for designers to showcase their work. Here you’ll find talented designers that make logos, website designs and graphic design. You can use the site to type in any keyword like logo, casino or ux and you’ll find all sorts of images with these tags and the designers that made them.
Upwork is probably the biggest freelance site around. You can post a job looking for UX designers or you can search for candidates. If you want great designers, search for keywords and categories for ux, user experience design and maybe throw in sketch as a keyword if you want designers that use Sketch.
What’s an article without a shameless plug?! If you need a designer, we can help and whatever the budget is, we can find a solution.
Tip: By specifically searching for a UX designer rather than a website designer, you are going to notice a different skillset of applicants. Some website designers might not know what UX stands for and you don’t want these people. A designer will make your website how you ask for it, a good user experience designer will challenge you and ask tough questions to solve a problem to help your users.
10. There is never a bad reason for a new design
Looking at 4 casino portals that were redesigned in 2016 should give you enough reasons to consider having your site redesigned.
Whether you are creating a new website, redesigning it or just a part of it, every time you do this is a chance to test what is working and what isn’t working. Your designs should be an evolution of your site. It shouldn’t take long for you to realize if your new designs are performing better than the previous version. Every design iteration takes your experience into consideration and you should be using that to make improvements.
Written by John Wright