landing pages and conversion rate optimization blog by pagewiz

Josh Miles: Move a Landing Page Design beyond the Aesthetic Brief

By Elisa Silverman on January 12, 2015

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Welcome to the second in my series of talks with the judges in ThemeForest’s Pagewiz Landing Page Design contest. While the first installment focused on the science of conversion, this post is all about understanding the user experience to design an effective landing page.

I spoke with Josh Miles, founder and principal of the award-winning Miles Design, a firm specializing in brand strategy and Josh Miles designwebsite design for professional service firms. A former art director and professor of graphic design, Josh is also the author of the Content Marketing Institute book, Bold Brand: The New Rules for Differentiating, Branding, and Marketing Your Professional Services Firm.

Since he’ll be judging the Top Expert $1000 Prize for “The Most Creative and Conversion Oriented UX Landing Page Design,” I wanted to explore how designers can put the user at the center of their design process.

Understanding the Unique Purpose of the Landing Page

Elisa:   Designers who want to submit templates in the contest already have an understanding of the elements of good design, but they may not be familiar with landing pages. Where should they start when thinking about how the user interacts with a landing page?

Josh:   This is actually a pretty cool project for a designer because in most web design applications you’re trying to satisfy several masters with one page. When it comes to the landing page, you’re really trying to get somebody to take one really specific action. Whether it’s to download something, submit your name, add yourself to a list and follow us on Twitter, or whatever the call to action is.

mouse click

So in the context of the landing page, the designer has a much tighter idea of what they want somebody to do when they get there. Then you can be as creative as possible within that context.

Elisa:   For someone who is designing a template that might get used in a lot of different industries, and maybe even from B2B to B2C, are there different things that a designer should consider relative to industry?

Josh:   People are people. I think simpler forms and more clear calls to action will work for everybody regardless of what industry they’re in. But while having a really simple barrier of entry for conversion will get you more sign-ups, that’s not always what you want. Sometimes you want to raise that bar up higher, so only people who are really committed are going to fill out this 20 part form.

Approaching the Design Process with Action in Mind

I also wanted to know how the designer should use the particular business goal of a landing page to inform a design process that focuses on getting users to take action.

Elisa:   There are common elements on the landing page, headlines and probably a features list, possibly video. In terms of putting all those elements together to motivate action, what kinds of things does a designer want to think about from the user’s perspective?

Josh:   Really great design work isn’t about aesthetics alone. Anybody I think, can make a button look prettier or shinier. The aesthetic part is really the icing on the cake. Once you start with the business strategy, you need to get a sense of the visual hierarchy that supports it without having colors or typefaces, or images clouding the decision-making process.

The business strategy gives you the framework that’s going to allow a user to experience the page flow as you want them to. Then with the aesthetics, you’re now adding visuals that will make the landing page a really enjoyable thing to look at too.

Capture the idea
Capture the idea

There’s also positioning from a visual design standpoint. It’s not just about “How do I make the button louder so people want to click it,” but “How do I capture the idea better, so people want to click it.”

Elisa:   So how can the template designer balance providing enough options to allow the end-user to differentiate themselves without overwhelming them with choices, while still creating an action-oriented design?

Josh:   The idea of limiting choices helps end-users feel a little bit more secure that the template is right. Maybe it’s not infinitely customizable, but you can swap out the logo, or maybe change the main color, or change the typeface. Not something where it’s back to them building their own and the insecurity of “What’s right, and when do I know when to stop?”

More Tips for Designing Your Template

Of course I also asked Josh what he could share with contest entrants about how he’ll be judging the template designs.

Elisa:   What are some big no-no’s in designing a landing page?

Josh:   Clutter; having too many other opportunities to click off the page once you’ve gotten there. I generally subscribe to a “less is more” idea. The design doesn’t need to shout. If the page is designed well, it will create the proper user experience flow, and you don’t need the horsey things like a neon-colored button or big scribblies pointing to the button.

no need to shout
No need to shout!

Elisa:   And one big “do”?

Josh:   There’s a trend right now in having content that’s more modular. Instead of having just one giant column of text that runs down the page, using visuals like an image or icon, or call-out quote, to break that up.

This creates more visual interest and doesn’t make the user feel like they’re lumbering through a big amount of text.

But really, I am most curious to see what people submit and the different approaches they’ll take. I’m curious to see how people will solve the conversion problem that maybe strays outside of the expected. Are there unconventional ways to achieve action that still checks a lot of the landing page boxes?

Are you in need of converting landing page templates?

Check out the Pagewiz marketing category at ThemeForest and find heaps of unconventional landing page templates that still provides a user experience that “checks the landing page boxes” and leads to conversions.

One key landing page user experience is how users interact with a mobile landing page. I’ll be exploring that topic with Michael Aagaard, who’s judging the Top Expert Prize “The Best Mobile Centered Landing Page Template Design,” in the next installment. So be sure to come back here over next couple of weeks to read that post.

Landing Page Template Design

Elisa Silverman is a B2B content writer with a background in law and technology, who’s spent a career helping diverse groups of people communicate well with each other.