How to Create a Higher Converting Form Landing Page

Landing pages are kind of like snowflakes – no two are exactly the same.

Though there are plenty of similarities between landing pages, and for good reason. There are certain strategies that simply do better for conversions, and so almost every page you see has some version of the following: a headline, explanatory text, and a call to action.

Why? Well, because these elements work.

But the exact application of each of these elements varies, with factors including things like audience, purpose, intent, angle, focus, industry, niche, and overall value.

In other words, one size doesn’t fit all. In fact, the way you blend these elements and factors together can make or break the effectiveness of your page.

Here’s what you need to know to create the most effective form landing page possible.

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Dos and Don’ts for High Conversions

The average landing page conversion rate is around 2-3%, but the top 25% are converting at 5% or higher, with some reaching 10-11% or more. Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow if you want to see your numbers cross above the 5% threshold.

DO Include a Powerful Headline

It may feel cliché to include a catchy headline, but think of it as your first CTA. The headline is where everything begins – where your audience decides if they’re going to stick around or not, whether you’re interesting or boring.

But it’s not just there to grab attention, it’s there to inform. It should be short (preferably 10 words or less) and to the point, and your audience should think, “Oh wow, tell me more!” by the time they have finished reading it.

headline

(Neil Patel over at Quicksprout has some suggestions for writing powerful headlines here.)

DO Include a Persuasive Subheadline

If the headline is your “oh wow”, your subheadline is your “let me hear more”. Your audience should be able to say, “This is why this page exists” by the time they finish reading it.

You should position your subheadline underneath the header (obviously), and it should be more persuasive than your headline copy. You can also give a little more depth and detail, as it can be longer than your headline.

DO Include Explanatory Text

It doesn’t have to be paragraphs upon paragraphs, but even something like a little extra wording to clarify the header/subhead can go a long way, especially if you get creative with the latter.

explanation

You also want to make sure that if you do include longer text, it explains the benefits that the user will receive if they fill out your form or otherwise engage with the CTA. They should be able to answer the question, “This is what I get out of the deal.”

DON’T Spend Too Much Time Explaining

That being said, you don’t have to give your audience the entire history of your company or really any more information than they absolutely need. Too much text can be visually overwhelming and make people think that your offering is more complex than it is.

badlandingpage

No. Don’t do this.

DO Include Large, Relevant Images

Did you know that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text? Now you do.

The images you use are just as important as your text, if not more so. They should be large, high quality, and relevant to your product or service. Like a headline, the primary goal of your image is to grab attention and help your audience relate to your product or service.

DO Include Visual Cues

Having a picture of a smiling person may do a good job of commutating how your customers will feel when they fill out your form and receive their product or service (or free eBook, etc.). But if you want to be more effective, use other visual cues to help users out.

Arrows are one of the most effective tools since they can easily guide an eye line to the right place (e.g. your CTA). You can make them noticeable:

arrows01

Or keep them subtle:

arrows02

DON’T Forget Smaller Visual Cues

If you’re a fan of the subtle route, there are plenty of ways to incorporate tiny visual cues that can be high converting without needing to draw a big red circle around your CTA.

Velaro, for example, uses a small PDF symbol on their image (above their form) to signal to the user that something can be downloaded and in what format it will arrive.

velaro-landing-page-example-1

Instead of using an image of a person or scenery, Single Grain uses the elements in the background to point toward the form itself. The average user wouldn’t even give it a second thought. (They also include a small animation that makes the CTA button wiggle).

singlegrain-homepage-form

DO Include a Demo or Test Drive

Some forms are dedicated to letting users sign up for a demo of their product, but some regular forms include a demo video or a “see how it works” link on their landing pages to help users decide if they want to sign up before they absolutely need to commit.

“Try before you buy” can be helpful for new companies that don’t have significant reputation in their chosen industry.

DON’T Forget Your Value Proposition

Finally, your value proposition is the most important part of your landing page. Another word for it would be your CTA, but unlike the “submit” CTA on your form, this one comes with more of an invitation.

Your value proposition can be spread among any of the above elements. In fact, it should be in all of the elements – in your explanatory text, in your buttons, in your images, and in your headline.

By the time they scroll to the very bottom of your landing page, your audience should know exactly why they’re there, what they’re going to get, and how they can get it.

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Final Thoughts

Creating a killer form is one thing, but creating a landing page that truly converts (to put that form on) is another animal entirely.

If you want to see higher conversion rates, be sure to include elements that bring the focus on the action you want the user to perform.

Use a good headline to draw them in, choose relevant images that highlight and point to your CTA, use text that explains the benefits of the form, and don’t forget to mention any additional goodies that they may get out of the deal.

Why Integrating Zapier with WordPress Will Save You Hours of Work

If you’re a busy WordPress developer, the last thing in the world you need is to waste time fiddling around with unnecessary applications, moving content around, or really doing anything besides, you know, developing.

Whether you’re freelancing your services or working for an agency, time is your most valuable asset. So how do you maximize your time while minimizing your effort?

One word: automation.

Automation

zapier

Creating a workflow is essential to managing your tasks, and automating that workflow is essential to making sure you have enough time to do the things you need to do without pulling out your own hair. That’s why many developers choose to use Zapier, a popular web automation app.

Zapier allows you to integrate different apps together to complete certain tasks – or, as Zapier calls them, “zaps”.

These zaps create automated processes that allow you to set certain rules and then leave them be. Whether it’s creating workflow notifications or having your content posted to the correct sites in a timely manner, there’s very little that can’t be managed by zaps.

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Which Tasks Should You Automate?

stressful-jobs-job-stress-work-time-clock-worker-18236949

Now, there are some tasks that really can’t (or shouldn’t) be automated and need your keen eye in order to complete, but for everything else, there’s a zap for that. So what falls in the category of “everything else?” Well, basically anything that needs to be done that you don’t want to waste time doing manually.

Social Media

Whether you’re marketing your own services or managing an account on behalf of a client or agency, social media requires a lot of attention, especially on sites like Twitter that need constant updates. If you’re not the type of person who enjoys spending time tweeting and retweeting, crafting media-friendly messages, or logging in and out of sites like Facebook on a daily basis, Zapier is your friend.

If your site involves written content of any kind – blog posts, Facebook posts, status updates, RSS feeds – consider pairing your site with apps like Buffer that automatically handle publishing and posting them to all the necessary channels. Alternatively, you can release posts on individual channels and have them automated, which works well if you only have one or two social accounts to manage.

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are another major hassle for anyone trying to sort through a massive amount of information. If part of your job revolves around building things that collect data, like forms or subscriptions, then you already know that data has to go somewhere, and it’s probably not somewhere you want to think about again.

By integrating your WP site with apps like Google Sheets, you can save time dealing with all of that excess information. Sync your WP forms with Google Sheets to capture user data, and then pair Google Sheets with another app, like MailChimp, to organize that data for delivery.

Data Capture

You’ve probably spent some time working on tasks that are designed to capture data and generate leads, whether it’s forms, emails, or web pages. While creating those things often requires the wisdom of your experience, like building a lead gen form, for example, there are many tasks that can just as easily be automated.

You can connect your WP site to things like SurveyMonkey to collect user data for A/B testing, link your forms with posts or pages to upsell a service or product, or trigger a Slack notification for updates you’ve already made on the site (or posts that have already been published) to let team members know you’re ready to move on.

Project Management

When it comes time to actually buckle down on a project, having a good workflow in place is essential to productivity. But if you’re sketching out your workflow in a notebook or sending emails back and forth to track your timelines, you’re wasting time. Zaps can connect different tools to help you manage projects faster with minimal effort.

Try combining apps like Slack and Trello together with your WP site to create a seamless workflow that allows your clients to stay connected to the process without sending them countless emails. This is particularly effective if you’re also in charge of loading up content for delivery on a regular basis. You can also manage your projects using something like Basecamp and integrate it with DropBox so clients can share files right to your project folders without having to chase anything down.

Time Tracking

If you’re the sort of developer who needs to keep track of how much time you’re spending working on a site, you can (and should) be using apps like Toggl to track your time. But did you know you can also pair Toggl with WP?

Pairing a time tracking app or a project management service like Basecamp will help to keep all of your information in one place so you know exactly what you’re doing and when you’re supposed to be doing it.

Notifications

Notifications are a big part of being a developer, whether it’s letting your team know about the status of a project, letting a client know when something is ready for review, or informing your audience that a post has been published.

Integrating apps like Slack can help your team stay organized while you’re all working on the same site. You can also use apps like OneSignal to create push notifications, which are especially handy for deadline driven jobs.

Events

Oftentimes companies will create both internal and external events that they want to market to their audience (or their team). These can be anything from a webinar, class, or even a fundraiser.

By using apps like Office 365 or Eventbrite, you can instantly create posts about upcoming events that can trigger notifications for team members to do certain tasks, or you can create Google Calendar events for clients to know when something is taking place.

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Final Thoughts

These are just a few ways you can integrate WordPress with other Zapier apps to save time. No matter your work style, saving time and energy will always benefit you in the long run by automating your workflow to simplify tasks and projects.

Consider automating tasks that are data heavy, like forms or spreadsheets, email campaigns, and social media posts. This way you can dedicate most of your time to actually doing the work you want to do.

You should also consider using Zapier to track hours and manage projects so you don’t have to watch the clock. The hours you save can be put to better use building your business and reputation.

And the faster and more efficiently you get things done, the better that reputation will be.

Why Your Landing Page Color Scheme is More Important Than You Think

When you think about getting landing pages to convert, what comes to mind? A good design? Copy that grabs attention? A big, bold CTA button?

While those things are all important factors to improving conversion rates, there’s one aspect of your site you may be overlooking, and it could be costing you customers.

We’re talking about color.

Surprised? Don’t be. Improving conversions is all about persuasion. You have to convince visitors to become customers based on only a few elements of your site. The problem with our modern persuasion tactics, however, is that we often focus too much on numbers and statistics and forget that we’re trying to sway real-life human beings. As it turns out, one of the biggest influencers for human decision-making is color.

In fact, there’s an entire branch of psychology dedicated to finding out how color affects human behavior (it’s called color psychology), and studies show that when it comes to converting customers, visuals matter.

In a peer-reviewed study, Dr. Satyendra Singh discovered that it takes a mere 90 seconds for customers to form an opinion of a product and that 62-90% of that interaction is determined by the color of the product alone.

So what does this mean for you? It means that if you’re looking to boost your conversion rates, your color scheme matters.

Here’s what you need to know…

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Choose Colors by Target Market

The human brain is designed to be a visual processor. It can digest visual information 60,000 times faster than plain text. This means that the colors you use on your landing pages will be instantly processed by your visitors, so knowing which colors will win them over is important.

But there are several ways you can go about choosing the most affective colors for your site. The first way is by assessing your target market, because different people process colors different ways.

Women Prefer…

In a survey on color and gender, 35% of women said blue was their favorite color, while 33% said orange was their least favorite color. If your target market is primarily women, stick with tints of blue, purple, and green, and avoid earthy tones like gray, brown, and orange.

Men Prefer…

If your target market is primarily men, you should use bold colors like red, blue, greens, and even black (it turns out you still want to avoid earthy tones, though). Use deeper and bolder shades of these colors, as they’re traditionally associated with masculinity (and avoid lighter “feminine” tints).

3-color-targeting-demographics

Source: Kissmetrics

If your market is mixed, however, don’t worry. Both men and women are shown to like popular colors in neutral shades, like blue or green. If you have a mixed market you can also choose colors based on nationality instead of gender, too.

International Markets Prefer…

If your company targets an international audience, be sure you understand how color is viewed in other nations. Americans tend to favor the color blue, for example, while Scandinavian countries prefer multi-colors.

In countries like China, for example, white is used for solemn occasions like funerals, so it isn’t associated with the same “happy” emotions (weddings, purity, etc.) that Americans attach to it, while bold colors like red or yellow are highly favored. Americans love blue for its sense of strength and security, but in some countries it’s symbolic of loneliness and sadness.

If you’re still not sure about choosing a color scheme based on your target market (or your market is too broad or convoluted), you can always choose colors based on your company’s personal branding instead.

Choose Colors by Brand Identity

Branding is an important part to any company, and because certain colors convey certain emotions, you want to make sure that your color choices reflect positive emotions for your business.

Red Conveys…

Red conveys a sense of excitement and boldness and is commonly used to advertise sales. It also ignites ideas of passion and hunger, so if you’re looking for immediate action (like a CTA button or a flash sale), use red.

Orange Conveys…

While not the most popular color, orange still has its place on your landing page if you want to communicate friendliness, fun, and confidence, which is why it’s often used for sports and children’s products. It can be used as an accent, or, if you’re an e-commerce site (think Amazon.com), you can use orange to encourage sales during the checkout process.

Yellow Conveys…

Yellow, arguably the happiest of all colors, reflects optimism, warmth, and happiness. If you want to communicate that your business is family-friendly, go with yellow shades. Oppositely, it’s also the color for warning. If you have elements of your site that need to be read right away, use a yellow accent color. Just make sure you don’t use it as a font color, as it can be hard to read if there’s not enough contrast.

Green Conveys…

Green is the color of tranquility, peacefulness, and nature. If you want customers to know that you’re eco-friendly and low maintenance, using green is a great way to do that. It’s also the perfect color for creative industries (graphic design, web development, arts, etc.) as one study indicates that when presented with flashes of green, people had more bursts of creativity than when shown any other color.

Blue Conveys…

Blue is one of the most loved and most used colors, which can be either good or bad depending on your goals. Blue conveys a sense of security, trust, and connection, which is why sites like Facebook use blue (and most of corporate America). But using blue can also mean you’re just like everyone else, so pairing it with less-used accent colors (like orange or yellow) can help differentiate you from your competition.

Purple Conveys…

Purple, like green, is the color of creativity, but it also conveys a sense of sophistication and wisdom, as it’s often associated with royalty. This is one of those colors that work well with luxury goods and services. It’s also heavily associated with femininity, especially in America, so if your target audience skews toward women, this is a great choice.

Black Conveys…

While black may or may not be an actual color, it is a standard for most text. But it can also be used as a deluxe tone. According to an article from Lifescript, black conveys elegance, sophistication, and power, and is considered timeless and classic. Black can also be used to communicate exclusivity and has an added sense of value.

White Conveys…

White can mean different things to different people, but its primary function when it comes to design is actually to help offset other visuals. It may not have inherent meaning beyond “clean” or “professional,” it’s still a valuable color (or non-color, depending on who you ask).

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Source: Neil Patel

Choose Colors Strategically

If you’re still not sure which colors will help you reach maximum conversions, consider the following:

First impressions matter. You only get one chance (90 seconds!) to reach your audience with colors, so if you can’t decide between a bold red or a soft yellow, go for whichever will make the most initial impact. Just remember that you want to make a good impression on first-time visitors without alienating your returning customers, so use bold accents with white space to offset other elements. Keep your look clean, but attention-grabbing.

Use bright colors where action is needed. If color choice makes you panic because your current site feels boring (let’s say you used too many earth tones), don’t worry. Using color strategically is about finding areas that need to stand out. Use bright, bold colors like red, yellow, and orange on your CTA buttons, pop-up buttons, or as visual indicators of action steps (like arrows pointing on something to click). You can keep the rest of your page muted if you have standout colors in key areas to make up the difference.

Don’t fear a colored background. “Whitespace” doesn’t always have to be white. Your design may actually benefit from a colored background depending on your goals. In his book, Color Psychology: The Science of Using Colors to Persuade and Influence Purchase Decisions, Michael Campbell notes that colored backgrounds can actually create a personal encounter and stir emotions better than a plain white background.

Contrast your colors for legibility. As mentioned earlier, if you’re using bold colors like yellow or orange for your text, don’t put them on equally bright and bold backgrounds. If your text is muted, like gray or brown, make sure the colors are deep enough so they don’t fade into a white background. If you make content difficult to read, you won’t be converting anyone.

The Biggest Landing Page Design Mistakes and How to Fix Them

If you’re a web designer or developer, you know about landing pages. Chances are, you’ve dealt with your fair share, and you know that a good landing page will capture a visitor’s attention, drive ROI, and ultimately generate conversions that create more business. But what happens if your landing page is poorly designed?

Well, none of those things.

If you’ve been working on landing pages for a while and haven’t seen a significant boost to your conversion rates or leads, you may be making a few fatal design errors.

Today we’re looking at the biggest design mistakes when it comes to landing pages and what you can do to avoid them. Let’s dive in…

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Unoptimized Images

If you’re a web designer or developer, you’re probably sick of hearing about optimizing your images. But the reason you hear about it so often is that images are a big deal when it comes to design. Pictures have the power to connect and communicate with your audience and draw attention in ways that words alone can’t achieve. But when your images aren’t optimized properly, they can do far more harm than good.

Uncompressed Images

One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to images on your landing pages is keeping them uncompressed. An uncompressed image – or an image that renders at full size every time the page loads – will cause your site to load significantly slower. If you’ve done your homework, you know that site speed is a major factor in conversions. If the design of your site relies on images (which it should, but we’ll get to that), make sure your graphics are working for you and not against you.

How to fix it? CreativeBloq has a list of compression tools available for designers and developers to help compress images.

Unemotional Images

While file size and type have a dramatic impact on your design, it turns out the subject of your images is equally important to optimization.

When it comes to visual marketing, people love bold images of other humans. Human faces draw more attention than any other type of image on the web, and people tend to mimic the behavior of the images they’re seeing. If you have a picture where a person is looking in a certain direction, for example, your visitors will typically follow the image’s line of site, too.

Chemistry-lineofsite

A good example of line of site from Chemistry.com.

People also tend to copy the emotion they see in the images. One study conducted by Basecamp actually showed that by featuring an image of a smiling person on a landing page, they increased conversions by 102.5%. Basically, if you’re not using your images to convey human emotion and connection, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

How to fix it? Choose high-quality images with an emotional appeal (specifically, happy people) and use graphics that include a line of sight that points to specific content whenever possible.

Content Overload

Of course, when you’re designing a landing page, you should probably be using more images than text anyway. Why? Because people are statistically more likely to skim text-heavy pages, whereas sites with simple designs that minimize text and focus on images are far more likely to engage visitors.

Too Much Text

One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to designing a landing page is including too much static text without enough visually pleasing elements to balance it out. As a designer or developer, you may not have a ton of control over how much content needs to be included on the page, but you can use the design to minimize a text-heavy look.

The best way to do this is using white space strategically to make certain features stand out (images and graphics) while minimizing other features (long paragraphs or unnecessary text). Of course, the best thing for your site is to remove unnecessary copy all together, but if that’s not an option you can always use the layout and design to your advantage.

How to fix it? Incorporate white space throughout your site to highlight specific elements, such as the CTA button or a lead capture form. If possible, eliminate or combine text to make it easier to skim. Jimdo blog has some great recommendations for designers working with text.

Amble-cleandesign

Clean web design and good use of white space by the Amble App site.

Too Many Options

Another common content overload error is presenting your visitors with too many options to click through. One study by Sheeya Iyengar, a social psychologist at Columbia University, found that people react differently when given multiple options versus limited options; specifically, the more options they have to choose from, the less likely they are to choose at all.

What this means for your design is that having too many places to click, multiple CTAs, or a general “cluttered” look will turn visitors away fast.

How to fix it? The easiest solution is to keep your designs simple. Cut away any excess until you’re left with only the absolute essentials. Keep navigation to a minimum (that means eliminating drop down menus wherever possible, too), create one clear CTA per page, and don’t redirect visitors off your page unless you need to.

Ineffective CTAs

Your call to action (CTA) is another major player when it comes to having an effective landing page. But the problem with CTAs is that if they’re not executed well, they’re not going to do you any favors. If you want to really engage visitors, you’ll need to avoid these common CTA mistakes.

Wrong Placement

The biggest mistake when it comes to CTA is location. You’ve probably read endless articles giving you a variety of advice on where to put it – whether it’s above the fold or below or whether it should be on every landing page or a select few.

For the most part, the “right” location will depend on your website design and visitors. Most of the time, you’ll probably want to include a CTA above the fold – or in the top part of your design, incorporated with a strong image or graphic that grabs attention. According to some studies, most people spend around 80% of their time above the fold when they visit a site.

But as we’ve noted before, the location really depends on your visitors. If your visitors already know what you’re about when they come to your landing page for the first time, then having a CTA above the fold is the best thing you can do. However, if all of your visitors will be visiting to learn who you are and what you’re about, then having a CTA after some vital information may be more beneficial.

How to fix it? Know your customer base. Because location of your CTA is important, you’ll need to determine whether or not the people visiting your page have brand awareness of your company, product, or service before they visit your site. Brandwatch has some good suggestions for testing your brand awareness.

Wrong Colors

Besides placement, the next biggest mistake when it comes to CTAs is choosing the wrong color. Surprising? Well, don’t be shocked. In a study called Impact of Color in Marketing, researchers found that up to 90% of snap judgments are based on color alone.

Kissmetrics actually made an infographic about how colors affect purchases. While some studies note that no single color is the “right” choice (because color is often associated with personal experience) they all show that color choice does play a role in conversions.

How to fix it? Choose colors for your CTA buttons associated with the goals of your site and customer base. Blue, for example, is often associated with trust and security, while green works well for the budget-conscious crowd. Here are a few tips from CoSchedule to help you choose the right color for your site.

Firefox-greenCTA

Firefox uses a classic green CTA button for its free product.

Unresponsive Theme

While the other mistakes listed above are certainly faux pas, the number one biggest mistake when it comes to designing landing pages is not optimizing for mobile viewing. In other words, if your theme isn’t responsive, you’re doing it wrong.

This is especially true if a lot of your visitors come from social media and search. According to research, nearly 80% of all Facebook users access the web exclusively through mobile, and a quarter of all Internet searches happen via mobile devices. These statistics are only going to increase as the number of internet-connected devices increase, too.

How to fix it? This really comes down to choosing a good responsive theme for your website as a whole, but you should also optimize each landing page to be designed for mobile use by using images, scroll-friendly layout features, and text that’s easy to convert to small screens.

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Final Thoughts

Making sure your landing pages are doing their job can be tough, but there are a few great ways to minimize mistakes and boost conversions.

Optimize your images for fast speeds and choose pictures that people can relate to (i.e. happy!).

Minimize unnecessary content and focus on creating a visually appealing website that’s simple to use, so you don’t confuse or overload visitors.

Create a clear CTA that grabs attention where you need it and works for your purposes by choosing the right color, style, and placement.

Go mobile! Make sure your theme and landing pages are designed to be responsive to all screen sizes.

Progressive Enhancement: Start Using CSS Without Breaking Older Browsers

Once upon a time (okay, the late 90’s and early 00’s) most websites were developed using Graceful Degradation (GD) – a web design strategy that attempted to standardize the way users viewed websites from different browsers (which was a reaction to the great Browser Wars, of course).

As browser development progressed, GD allowed users with updated browsers to experience the best and brightest design elements available, while users with older browsers had a slightly “degraded” (though still functional) experience. The aim was to encourage users to continually update their browsers as newer versions came out, or to switch to more popular browsers that supported more design elements. This strategy worked well in the early days of the web, as most browsers were still relatively new and needed fewer updates to be considered “modern.”

Flash-forward a few decades, however, and things are a bit different. Most browsers go through several updates annually, and some have ceased to be updated at all (Netscape, anyone?). What this means for web developers and designers is that sites created using GD are no longer functional with today’s modern browsers.

So, why not just force everyone to use modern browsers? Not everyone who uses the Internet is able to (or even wants to) update, which means that no matter how much developers want users to be on the latest version of their site, people will continue viewing web pages without proper support. So how should developers approach web design knowing that not everyone who visits their site will be using a modern browser? They should build their sites using Progressive Enhancement.

What is Progressive Enhancement?

Progressive Enhancement (PE) is an alternate design strategy that offsets any issues caused by older browsers. Unlike GD, which is optimized for modern versions and degrades with older versions, PE starts with the old – sites are built with basic HTML elements supported by older browsers – and adds the latest bells and whistles on top of it for modern browsers. PE builds sites basic enough that any browser can handle them, but complex enough to meet contemporary design demands.

PE works by using layers of code, with the first layer being HTML. CSS is then added on top of the HTML to alter the visual and design elements as needed. Then JavaScript is added to the final layer for modern usability (the “flashy” features of Web 2.0). The layers can be adjusted to create any look and feel, while the simplistic foundation makes it viewable from any browser without major complications.

PE-Friendly CSS Tools

The best way for developers to take full advantage of PE is to use CSS tools like flexbox (flexible box layouts), filters, and blend modes in their web designs to create sites that can be viewed on any browser.

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Flexbox

One of the best ways to use CSS with PE is to create layouts with flexible box, or flexbox, instead of the standard grid layout. The boxes expand items to fill any free space, making sites adaptable to a variety of display and screen sizes. This is not only extremely helpful for older browsers, but for modern portable and mobile devices.

wp-blendmodes-1024x546

Flexbox adds to the four basic CSS layout modes: block layout, inline layout, table layout, and positioned layout. It’s intended for laying out more complicated pages, as it allows for the position and size of certain elements to remain consistent.

With flexbox you can also create fluid layouts, specify how excess space is used, control the direction of certain elements (left-to-right, top-to-bottom, etc.) and reorder any element as needed.

It does have a few drawbacks, however. While it’s technically supported across all browsers, it does require slightly different syntax for older browsers. For example, Google Chrome still requires a “webkit” prefix, and Firefox and Safari will still need to use older syntaxes to run properly. But despite these caveats, flexbox is a great way to give websites a modern feel (think mobile-friendly) without breaking older browsers in the process.

Filters

Another great way to use CSS without causing browser issues is to use filters to add graphic effects like blurring, sharpening, or color shifting to different elements. Filters can also be used to adjust the rendering of an image, background, or border.

cssfilters

Why is this important? Filters can be used through CSS to add graphical changes to a site without affecting the HTML. Any browser that has a basic Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) specification will show filters (which include almost all browsers, regardless of version). Developers at Mozilla were the first to discover how useful filters and CSS styling could be. They combined CSS and SVG working groups to make filters available for HTML as well, making it a universal tool for adding graphic effects.

Filters work best as a post-processing step after page content has been laid out. Basically, when browsers load a page, they first apply styles, then layouts, and then render the page. Filters are the final step before the page is copied to the screen. They take a snapshot of the rendered page as a bitmap image, and create pixelated graphics over the top, which gives the page a “filtered” effect (like looking through a camera with a filtered lens). Any number of filters can be used to create effects without impacting the original HTML.

Of course, there are some limitations. Filters can potentially impact loading speeds (though very minimally), and while they work across all browsers, Internet Explorer has the most trouble when it comes to applying them. IE can only apply filters to images and text, not chunks of HTML, which could cause some rendering issues with older versions. But for most browsers, filters are a great choice for adding effects without compromising the site’s structural integrity.

Blend Modes

Though technically considered “experimental,” blend modes are another great way to add dynamic effects to a website without causing too much trouble for browsers (though it should be noted right off the bat that they do work better with newer browsers). How do blend modes work?

flexbox

Blend modes – like multiply, screen, overlay, and soft light – take layered pixels and combine them in different ways to produce a new effect (think of one picture on top of another picture, then blended together). Normally blend modes are created using Adobe Photoshop and implemented on static sites, but they can also be utilized on dynamic sites with CSS.

The most common way to do implement blend modes is with CSS Compositing and Blending, including background-blend-mode (which allows blending between background layers), mix-blend-mode (which blends elements with their backdrop), and isolation (which stops elements from blending with their backdrop). Using these modes, images can be manipulated without taxing the site’s HTML.

Getting blend modes to render smoothly across browsers is still a bit of a challenge, however, as they tend to be better supported by newer browsers. But they can still function in older browsers by using vendor prefixes or by activating experimental features. Similar to filters, IE has the least amount of support when it comes to blending modes (As of 2014, IE has them listed as “under consideration” for further support) but for the most part they can be used without too much drama across multiple browsers.

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Final Thoughts

It can be a hassle to create websites that are viewable on old and new browsers alike. The best way to overcome browser issues when designing a site is to use Progressive Enhancement to layer HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to overcome any issues. By taking advantage of CSS tools like flexbox, filters, and blend modes, you can make the most of CSS without crashing older browsers. And while some tools may work better than others when it comes to browser support, they all have some advantage when creating dynamic sites that need to look good on any browser.

Not Sure Which Static Site Generator to Pick?

Static Site Generators (SSGs) are a great option for many web developers and bloggers looking to build fast websites that can handle a lot of content without relying on bulky servers or databases. But there are dozens of different generators on the market, with each one declaring itself to be the “simplest and fastest” SSG on the market. So which one should you choose?

If you’re a newbie blogger who wants to get into coding, then you’ll need something a little more user friendly. If you’re a programming-savvy developer, on the other hand, you could tackle something a little more intense. Here we’ll compare a few of the most popular SSGs to help you decide which direction is the best for your site.

Jekyll

Website: jekyllrb.com

Language: Ruby

Templates: Liquid

License: MIT

Similar: Octopress. Serif, Enfield, JAQ

jekyll-1024x516

Jekyll markets itself as “a simple, blog-aware, static site generator” and it’s one of the most popular choices when it comes to SSGs, especially for first-time users. Jekyll allows you to blog straight from your desktop, giving you more control over every aspect of your blog without having to deal with heavy databases and bloated frameworks. In terms of speed, the performance is nearly unbeatable. But does that mean Jekyll is the right option for you? Let’s take a look at some of its best (and worst) features.

Best Features

User friendly. Jekyll is built on Liquid, a templating engine that originated with Shopify, which means that it includes ready-made templates that are fairly straightforward to use. If you’re a developer that doesn’t want to spend hours creating your templates from scratch, then Jekyll is the easiest choice by far.

Built for blogging. Jekyll is almost ready-made for blogging, as its pages are automatically organized by post. It also lets you import existing blogs from Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, or almost any other dynamic blog engine with relative ease, so if you’re transitioning from a current blog to Jekyll, you won’t have to go through the tedious setup process.

A large support community. Because Jekyll is so popular, it has a great community support system if you ever need to troubleshoot an issue. This is especially good news if you’re hosting your site through GitHub, the equally popular public webhosting service most commonly linked to Jekyll. If you ever have questions you can’t answer, the solutions are only a few clicks away.

Worst Features

Less customization. While the Liquid templates are great if you just need something basic to get started, they don’t offer much in the way of customization. Because its engine is primarily designed to support Shopify, it doesn’t allow for any custom code whatsoever, which isn’t helpful for developers wanting to give their sites a unique look and feel. If you want to do something more customized, you’ll need to develop your own Liquid helpers, which can be time consuming.

Poor support for Windows users. If you’re running your website from Windows, you might be at a disadvantage. Jekyll doesn’t officially support the Windows platform, so setup requires a lot more time, effort, and maneuvering to work properly if you’re not already on OSX.

Who should use Jekyll?

If you’re a first-time SSG user or blogger, Jekyll is the perfect choice. Because Jekyll doesn’t require advanced knowledge of web development, it’s extremely user friendly and still includes powerful features for those with more experience. If you like building your own templates in Liquid, you’ll also do great with Jekyll.

But if you’re not familiar with Ruby (or you don’t like it), or you feel limited by the templates supported by Liquid and don’t want to spend time building your own from scratch, you might want to go with a different SSG.

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Pelican

Website: blog.getpelican.com/

Language: Python

Templates: Jinja2

License: AGPL

Similar: Urubu, Lektor, Hyde, Nikola, Acrylamid

pelican-1024x516

Pelican is another popular SSG built using Python. It incorporates templates from Jinja, a Python-based template engine, which gives it added flexibility when customizing themes and templates. Pelican also supports WordPress and Tumblr and includes its own RSS feed, making it a good choice for bloggers looking to make the move from dynamic to static. Let’s review a few features that make Pelican stand out from the crowd.

Best Features

Flexible options. Pelican features multi-language content posting and can use multiple formats, such as reStructuredText, Markdown, or ASCiiDoc. It also allows for code (syntax) highlighting and has a variety of plugin options, making it a good choice for developers who want to use styles that are familiar and friendly.

Great for full websites. Because it supports Jinja templates, Pelican can cater to a variety of unique templates that go far beyond basic blogging. The themes and templates coming from Jinja are also extremely easy to use, which means less time for developers when it comes to customizing and coding.

Import friendly. If you’re looking to move your dynamic site to a static site but don’t want to spend more time than is absolutely needed, Pelican is the perfect choice. It supports import from a variety of different blogging sites, making it one of the easiest to use in terms of moving existing sites over to a static platform.

Worst Features

Requires knowledge of Python. When it comes to coding, Python is a higher-level programming language and takes a fair amount of experience to use. For those who are familiar with Python, using Pelican shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re more familiar with JavaScript or Ruby, then you might run into more problems than using Jekyll or another Java or Ruby based SSG.

Trouble with org-mode integration. If you’re one of the few developers using org-mode for Emacs to write your blog posts, you’ll have trouble using Pelican. While there’s a plugin to read org files (org_reader), it isn’t as well supported as other SSGs and often crashes. If org-mode is something essential for you, then Pelican isn’t the right choice.

Who should use Pelican?

Developers familiar with Python who want flexibility when it comes to coding will naturally gravitate towards Pelican. Those looking to build a website that goes beyond blogging, or who want to import existing WordPress blogs to a static site, will also love Pelican.

But if you’re a developer who is more comfortable using Ruby or JavaScript, then Pelican isn’t for you. And if you’re an avid org-mode user, you can probably find another SSG more suited to your needs.

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Metalsmith

Website: metalsmith.io/

Language: JavaScript

Templates: HBS/Any JS

License: MIT

Similar: Brunch, Docpad, Cabin, Wainwright

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Metalsmith is perhaps slightly less well known than Jekyll or Pelican, but it is by far the most flexible. Branding itself a “pluggable” site generator, it boasts an impressive library of plugins that gives your site any feature it needs, making it useful as more than just an SSG. Metalsmith’s website showcases it used for everything from generating eBooks to creating technical documents in addition to building blogs. Let’s take a look at a few of Metalsmith’s unique qualities.

Best Features

Built for developers. Metalsmith utilizes a very simple core and the rest is managed through plugins, making it very flexible and easy to use (that is, if you know what you’re doing). You simply give the site a source directory and then tell it which plugins to use. If you’re a developer that has used Gulp and you’re very familiar with Node.js (or any .js), you’ll love Metalsmith.

Not just for blogging. While it will handle all the basics of a blog, it can also be used for a variety of other projects, like converting markdowns to ePub files or creating project scaffolds. You could also use it to generate PDFs for your blog posts, making it a super flexible option for anyone wanting to add interesting projects alongside their static site.

Supports chained API. Maybe the most programmer-friendly feature, Metalsmith uses consistent and simple chained API, providing significantly reduced processing time. It also allows for things like unlimited linking, reduced client/server coding, and ID security. If these are features you need in your site, then Metalsmith should be your go-to SSG.

Worst Features

Less user friendly. Even though Metalsmith is designed for easy use, it takes a fair amount of programming knowledge to get it working to its full potential. This is definitely an SSG for developers who know what they’re doing, so if you’re a newbie, keep looking.

Small community. Unlike larger SSGs like Jekyll, Metalsmith has much less support when it comes to troubleshooting. A lack of resources and experienced users means less help when you run into tricky problems, though they do have a Slack group to help developers ask and answer questions.

Who should use Metalsmith?

If you’re an intermediate or advanced developer looking for more flexibility and control over your content, you’ll love Metalsmith. It’s also great for those wanting to do more than just blog, and if you’ve got a good understanding of JavaScript and don’t mind spending a little extra time developing your site, this is a great option.

But if you’re a newbie developer or someone unfamiliar with JavaScript, or you just want a good support system if you run into trouble, this SSG is not for you.

Designing Forms that Convert

A huge part of the success or failure of an online business depends on its forms and their ability to convert viewers into paying customers. Contact forms must gather essential information on leads, and checkout forms must endear enough trust for users to hand over their credit card details.

Designing forms is an art. There are many subtle elements: your forms must be brief yet exhaustive, noticeable yet non-intrusive, unambiguous yet not trivial, minimal yet interesting. Web forms should be about the user experience above all else – but they must also provide you with the data you need to run your business.

Luckily, there’s a lot of simple things you can do to increase your conversion rates without sacrificing data quality.

Reduce form length

Many companies have massively increased conversion rates by just removing a few unnecessary fields from their form. Expedia, for example, eliminated one field (company name), and gained $12 million/year in profit. Imaginary Landscape compacted their form from 11 fields down to 4 and found a 120% increase in conversions. Even better – the field they removed had no real impact on the quality of leads generated.

Don’t ask for phone numbers

Almost every contact form involves asking for an email address, but some forms ask for a phone number as well. Including a phone number field decreases your conversion rates by about 5%. For businesses that rely on post-click sales calls, this may be a worthy trade. But for most, it’s better to leave it out, or at least make it optional. In one study by Luke Wroblewski, making a phone field optional led to a 37% drop-off on the phone number field entries, but doubled the conversion rate of the whole form.

Show the password

By default, any password field in a form masks all the characters with asterisks. But like Reset buttons on forms, this seems to be one of those 20-year-old decisions that have become “just the way things are done”. Password masking then led to people making mistakes when entering their password and not being able to log in, which created the “Confirm Password” field that everyone loves.

But if we just take a step back and reconsider whether that 20-year-old design decision is still serving us well, maybe we can remove another form field! Many companies like MailChimp and Amazon are now presenting a single password field, along with a checkbox to show the password as plain text. In one A/B test, Formisimo found that replacing the Confirm Password field with a Show Password checkbox increased conversions by 56% and decreased the number of corrections made (from mis-typing or second-guessing) by 24%. Interestingly though, it had no effect on the password reset request rate.

password-afterpassword-before

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Use the right inputs

When you’re deciding which form fields to keep and which to throw out, keep in mind that not all fields are equal. The cost of keeping or adding a field depends on what type of field you’re adding. One extra text input field won’t do much to your conversion rates – just a $12 million/year loss . Adding one text box can drop your rates by almost 10%. It makes sense: most single-line text input fields don’t involve any creativity or decision-making. It doesn’t require effort for a user to recall their name or email address. A radio button is slightly more difficult, but at least all the possible answers are pre-defined. But a text area means that the user has to get creative and come up with a response on the spot – usually a complex message or comment. If you must include a text box, think about marking it optional.

Dropdown boxes aren’t as bad as text boxes, but they’re still significantly worse than single-line input fields. If your dropdown box only has a few options (5 or less), try replacing it with radio buttons. Radio buttons are faster to interact with because they allow the user to see the answers before they click on the input.

select-radio

Real Time Validation

If you’re only validating upon form submission (or worse, not at all), you’re missing out on a really easy conversion rate boost. Luke Wroblewski ran a few studies and found that real-time validation increased conversion rates by 22%, decreased errors by 22% and decreased completion time by 42%.

Focus on your Call to Action

Ok, so now you’ve optimized the hell out of your form fields. What else can we do to increase conversion rates? Let’s look at the Call to Action (CTA). Minor changes to your CTA can make a surprisingly big difference on conversion rates.

The first thing to look at is the color and position of the CTA. You may have heard of HubSpot’s study – they ran an A/B test on one of their client’s websites, and simply changing the CTA’s color from green to red improved conversion rates by 21%. So does this mean that you should immediately go out and change all your green buttons to red? Not necessarily. Take a look at the website HubSpot was testing:

cta-contrast-1

The logo is green, the icons are green, the screenshot is green – so of course the red button stands out a lot more than the green button. Take a look at the following design – which of these buttons do you think will convert better?

cta-contrast-2

So the lesson to take out of this is not “make all your CTA buttons red”, but “make sure your CTA buttons contrast well against the rest of your site”.

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Once that’s handled, take a look at your CTA copy. It may seem that as long as it’s clear which button is the “Submit” button, and it says something like “Submit,” you can’t go wrong. In fact, Dan Zarella found that “Submit” is one of the worst words to use for your CTA. Take a look at the graph below: “Click Here” performed almost twice as well as “Submit,” and more than three times better than “Register.”

cta-text

But don’t go rushing off to change your CTA buttons to “Click Here” just yet – think about how to best apply this to your design. Optimizely increased their conversion rates 27% by changing their CTA text from “Get Started” to “Test It Out.” They concluded that “this language made it more clear that the user could try it immediately without a long process. We thought “Get Started” presented a more hands-on, involved process.” Taking another look at the above graph, this makes sense. “Click Here” involves absolutely no commitment – it’s purely a directive. “Register” on the other hand, sounds like going to the DMV and spending three hours in line.

A/B Testing

Before you make any modifications to your forms, use an A/B testing setup to compare your conversion rates before and after. Maybe you’ll be able to add in a new input field without sacrificing conversion rates. Perhaps you’ll finally get an objective answer on what text to place in your CTA button. With time, iteration and solid data, you’ll be able to increase form conversion rates and boost your client base.