The importance of website design & layout

Posted by Jan Boshoff on 4 Jun 2009

Unfortunately the most basic principles of web design are often overlooked when brainstorming the brief for a new website. In most cases this is due to the fact that the people creating the brief are doing so for the first time.

For example, imagine the owner of a guesthouse on the west coast decides that he or she would like to start marketing their property more effectively. First thing they should rightly do is get their website up to scratch if they already have one, or start a spec for a new one. It is highly likely that business owners like these would not have had any previous experience with the web and thus would not have a clear idea of what the basic requirements should be to convert traffic to a website into paying customers.

The problem we face as marketers is that we are often only contracted to become involved in the process once the website has already been designed and developed. A good brief is everything -I know from experience that if you submit a detailed and carefully considered brief, you will get a much better design in return. Because of the nature of our specific channel of marketing (Pay per Click or Google AdWords), it is of utmost importance to us that any website we attempt to market, has the basics right. Unfortunately, because of the problem outlined above, this is not always possible. Where we have been able to get involved in the design (or re-design) phase of a site, we have seen some remarkable results.

Recently we saw a significant increase in conversion rates immediately after a client changed the layout of their site. Without making any changes to our campaigns (other than destination url’s), we saw an increase in conversion rates of more than 1.6%.

This graph clearly shows when the changes were implemented

I have mentioned the basics a few times and consider the following (in no particular order) to be the bare minimum requirements before spending money on traffic to a site:

Call to action
Any site has to have a very clear way for a user to enquire, register, signup or buy something.
This button or normal link MUST stand out from the rest of the navigation and should always be visible, no matter which page the visitor is on.

Make it easy to convert.
“Contact us” forms should be short and neat, but still get the necessary information to distinguish between the serious enquiry and the noise.

Easy navigation
Visitors should be able to easily find their way back to where they entered the site.
Complicated navigation menu systems simply offer the visitor more things to do and click on other than convert.

Highlight your location, product or service
When someone finds your site via a search engine, chances are they searched for something like “camps bay guesthouse”. If you advertise on this term and a user clicks on your ad and arrives at your landing page, you need to assure the user that he or she arrived at the right place. The right place in this case being a guesthouse that is actually in Camps Bay.
The same applies for any product or service you might offer on your page.
The word here is relevancy…
Why you and not the next company, or property

You have paid for a user to be on your site. Now it is up to you to convince that user that you can do a better job than anyone else in providing him or her with what they are after.
If you have won any awards, make it very clear.
If possible, verify that you are the best or cheapest by adding third party verifications on your site.

Rates or prices
You need to have prices or price ranges on your site.
If you have specials, make it clear which products they are for or which date ranges they apply to, for instance: winter specials.
Image gallery

People really love to see what they are buying or where they are possibly going to.

Content about your property, product or service may not be as important to the user as it is to the search engines.
In short, you can get traffic for much cheaper if you have relevant content on your site. Users might not read all of it, but search engines will love it.


A neat and clean design in itself gives a lot of credibility to your brand.
Especially where there are personal details involved, users will want to feel that their information is in safe hands whether it is only an email address or credit card details.
Obviously where online payments are accepted, the security verifications from third parties are essential.
We find that if a site covers at least these basics, it has a much better chance of converting its visitors into paying customers.