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Five Design Elements That Can Kill Conversion

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Conversion Optimization

Kill may be a strong word to use but I believe that it places the correct emphasis on how some of these elements can absolutely destroy the conversion rate for an eCommerce site. With some of the principles being able to be applied to content sites where the conversion metric may be newsletter or account sign ups or inquiry from submissions. By no means is this an exhaustive or ranked list, however this can serve as a baseline for some of the most prevalent, and those that can have the greatest impact.


annoying pop up
This one will be pretty self-explanatory however it needs to be said. In the work of modals and other items on page, why in the world would you use a new tab, never mind a new window to direct the user to to take an action!?

The most typical form for a pop up is an offer or a newsletter sign up. The best way to combat this would be a modal that appears on page after the user is on the site for a predetermined about of time (this will signify that they are interested). Think of it as if you were in a brick and mortar store – how likely would you be to sign up for a newsletter/promo if it was the first thing you were greeted with when walking in the store?

In addition, when there is an action for the user to take, make sure that they are returned to your site in the exact same tab. When they are forced into a new tab they will be likely to have the original tab lost in their browser, or when they try to click the back button to go back (standard user behaviour), this will not serve as anticipated.

Related: Home Page Conversion Optimization Tips

Distracting Plugins

distracting plug-in

This would be mostly geared towards eCommerce sites – as “sharing” can be a conversion metric for some content sites – but most of these design principles will apply across the board.

Some of examples of distractive plugins can include the following:

Live Agent: Same principle above in that if you blast a user with this right away they will not have anything that they actually need assistance with yet. Maybe look to only pop on the product page if they have been there for x amount of time.
Social Sharing Services: Will usually bring off page and then maaayyyyy redirect back to the same page if it is configured correctly. Look to use static links with a redirect loop that you can control (definitely not the AddThis/ShareThis ‘pick every service possible’ plugin) and make sure to test this on a regular basis as these are ever changing. In addition, this will make sure users use the services that YOU want them to use!
Social Following Services: This can be a double-edged sword for sure, but if the user is brought offsite to your social page to ‘follow/like/stalk/adore’ you then make that you provide them a way back!

Related: eCommerce Conversion Design Synergy

Impossible Captcha

elements that kill conversion
Pretty much speaks for itself, but if you have validation – good idea – make sure that a human can actually validate it. There are now many different services available so don’t be afraid to a/b test or conduct focus groups on what will actually work for your audience.
Also, think of some other creative options such as placing a form on the page that is hidden to the average human but a bot will fell it needs to populate – if there is content there then you know it is not a human!

Related: Accessibility and eCommerce: An Exercise in Dirty Words

Too Much Flash

five elements that kill conversion

Take a look at your homepage… if you were not involved with your company do you know what the site it trying to accomplish? There are many companies that wonder why they have a large bounce rate from the homepage and the usual reason is that customers cannot figure out what line of business you are in or the call to action you are trying to have them make when they first visit their site.

This topic can also tie into the design/layout of the site and how easy it is for customers to find what they are looking for. If you take a look at pretty much every eCommerce site the overall layout will be the same:

With the above in mind there is not really a reason to change it if you are looking to convert! If a customer wants to be able to find your shipping or return policies and they go to the footer with no avail, they will probably not spend the time digging around and look somewhere else to complete their purchase.

Related: Trouble “down there”? You’re not the Only One Having Problems – Converting Below the Fold

Straying from the Purchase Path

Great! The customer has now entered the checkout funnel from their cart – why the heck would you want them to go anywhere else? There are many checkouts that I have seen that still include full category navigation on the left side of the page, right next to where they are looking to enter their information to checkout! If they are half way through then they get distracted and navigate elsewhere on the site they may not want to re-enter all of their information when they get back.

Conversely, the customer may really be looking for shipping or return information when they are about to submit, so that should not only be easy to find, but if at all possible keep them on page using modals or js ‘tool tips’ that will not have them navigate to the standard pages where this information is kept. A 1.800 number on page can be equally as valuable as with most systems if a customer is logged in, the support staff can actually see that in the admin and help them through checkout.

The Easiest Way to Improve Conversion


As mentioned at the start, this is not the be all and end all for design elements that can have an averse impact on conversion, but some of the ones that I see as most prevalent and are required to be considered when doing an eCommerce build or any site with a conversion in mind; the way you would want to have someone fill out their information still applies the same as if you are wanting them to check out and purchase. For those that already have a list site this list serves as some review points as if the items are found they do not require a fundamental architectural change to the site and instead can be accomplished with some content updates, html/css or removing plugins (still always remember to test on staging 🙂 ).

Related: Why Conversion Rate Is a Bad Metric (In Isolation)

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