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4 Web Page Elements I’d Pick Over Good Design Any Day (and Twice on Sunday)

by Adam Kreitman

Before the hate mail starts rolling in, I’d like to make it clear that the point of this post is not to minimize the importance of good web design. I strongly believe design is a critical component of a successful website.

But if I were to rank the elements I’d want on a web page that needs to generate sales or leads, design is not at the top of my list.

While I hope it never becomes an either/or decision, for the sake of this exercise, if I had a gun to my head and had to pick between a site with good design and one of the factors listed below, I’d choose…

1. A Big ‘Ol Problem

Imagine this scenario: You’re at home relaxing one Sunday night. As you stroll down the hallway to get a snack in the kitchen, you walk by the basement stairs and hear water dripping. You open the door, turn on the lights and at the bottom of the stairs you see your cat floating by balanced on top of a box of Christmas lights.

After rescuing Fluffy, you head straight to the computer to find an emergency plumber. At that moment do you care about the design of the plumber’s website? Not me. I’m calling the first company I find whose website offers 24/7 emergency service and displays a phone number!

Now the Big ‘Ol Problem doesn’t have to be an emergency situation. In fact, in most cases it won’t be. Usually it’s more emotional in nature…

  • Your friends have the newest, coolest smartphone on the market and you want one too.
  • Your competitors are ranking higher than you in the search engines and you want to claim one of those top spots.
  • You can’t spend another day looking at the cracked, stained, lime green countertops in your kitchen and need an affordable replacement option.

You’ll often hear marketers talking in terms of what’s keeping their prospects up at night. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about here.

You want a site that focuses squarely on the problem your prospects are having (the more urgent and desperate the problem, the better). You want a site that magnifies that problem. And you want a site that provides a unique way of solving that problem.

This is so critical because you want to sell to people who are emotionally invested in getting rid of their Big ‘Ol Problem (and, come to view your product as the solution).

Apathy is a huge deal killer.

2. A Killer Offer

To illustrate this one, let’s look at two extremes:

Let’s say I have a beautifully designed website that would make an Apple designer jealous. We’re talking a masterpiece of a site here. On it, I’m selling blades of dead grass from my yard for $1000 each.

On another site, I’m using a plain (if not downright ugly), boring template I found on the web, selected neon pink as my font color and added lots of flashing, scrolling banners to go with it. On this site I’m selling iPads for $1 each, plus free shipping.

Assuming this second offer is credible (more on that in a minute), which one is going to get more sales?

(If you’re even considering the blade of grass offer, please email me immediately to arrange payment and I’ll throw in two extra blades of grass and free overnight shipping at no additional charge!)

More than any other single factor (with the exception of getting highly qualified prospects to your site in the first place) the success of your website is about making your prospects an offer they can’t refuse.

Price is obviously a key part of the offer, but it’s really more about building value and eliminating risk.

What if in the example I gave above, I was selling a blade of dead grass for $1000 but added a John Deere riding mower, a year’s supply of organic fertilizer, and an automatic sprinkler system (including installation) as bonuses along with it? Plus you get a 60 day, no questions asked, 100% money back guarantee.

Feel differently about the strength of that offer now?

You can also use strategies like limited supplies/limited time offer, a no money down trial or different purchasing levels (think Silver, Gold, Platinum options) to make your offer more compelling and drive more sales.

Making that strong, well-crafted offer to the right audience can overcome a lot of other deficiencies on a website (or other marketing material, for that matter), including bad design.

3. The Credibility Factor

We’re all barraged by marketing everywhere we go. Because of this, the level of skepticism your prospects have about you or your products/services is sky high.

You know you have a great product/service that’s superior to your competitor’s offering.
You know you’re honest and ethical.
You know your clients are thrilled with what they get from you.

But your prospects don’t know these things.

More than that, if you just say these things are true without providing any proof, they won’t believe a word you say. They’ve been burned too many times before.

You can have a great offer, a beautiful site, solve a big ol’ problem, etc., but frankly most people won’t give a damn unless you can prove the credibility of you, your product and/or your offer.

How do you do this?

The most common way to demonstrate your credibility are testimonials and case studies. But there are plenty of other ways to do it…

  • Videos of you and/or your product in action.
  • Your credentials (awards won, degrees earned or other notable achievements).
  • Displaying the names/logos of well known, respected people/companies who are your clients.
  • Telling a good story about you, how your product was developed, etc.
  • And, yes, I definitely consider good site design to be a proof element. A well laid out, professionally designed site projects far more credibility than a quickly thrown together template that uses the Comic Sans font.

Give people the proof they need to feel comfortable about doing business with you. Then give them an extra helping of proof for good measure.

4. A strong call to action with a deadline

Lastly, I want to have a strong call-to-action. But more than just telling people what action to take, I want them to have a deadline for doing it.

Last year I helped organize an online marketing conference for local business owners in St. Louis. About a month before the conference, the sale page for it went live and…well, cue the crickets. A few registrations trickled in from people with strong connections to the presenters, but that was it.

Based on initial response I thought our sales page bombed and the conference was going to be a complete failure.

But on that sales page we had a deadline (with a strong offer tied to it). Anyone who registered by February 2, exactly two weeks before the conference, was automatically entered into a drawing and was eligible to win an online marketing campaign for their business run by one of the presenters.

After a few weeks of little activity, registrations for the event surged in the 24 hours before the offer expired on February 2 as people rushed to beat the deadline. Having that date looming over people’s heads turned what looked like a big flop into a big success.

When someone comes to your page and is interested in what you’re offering, you don’t want them to leave without taking action. If they leave to go think it over, talk to their spouse/associates or consider alternatives, you lose the sale.

So give them a reason to take action NOW! It could take the form of a limited time bonus, a pending price increase, or a limited supply of product (or limited supply of your time, service).

And, along with that deadline, be crystal clear about what action you want them to take! Tell them what button to click, what form to fill out, what phone number to call, etc. ). Don’t leave any room for confusion.

Putting it All Together

So those are the 4 elements I’d pick over good design for any web page that’s gotta sell something.

And when it comes to design, in my book the best designed web pages are the ones that strategically use colors, fonts, images, layout, etc. to enhance and call attention to these 4 elements.

Put that in place and you’ve got a formula for a winning website.

Now I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Are there any other elements you’d pick over good design? Would you pick good design ahead of any (or all) of the elements listed above?

Please weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section below (and bonus points for anyone who references famous movie quotes in their response!).



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Adam Kreitman

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on


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  1. Theanna Zika says:
    March 13, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    I agree with Caitlin-you really do write well. The visual of the cat floating by on top of the christmas tree light box was hilarious! Keep up the good work!
    Heavenly Helpers Home Care

  2. Adam Kreitman says:
    February 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks for the great comments everyone! I was expecting to get some pushback on this so I’ve been happily surprised by all the positive feedback.


  3. Caitlin at Spectate says:
    February 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

    GREAT post! There is a lot to be said for the content that goes into a website–and planning that is just the beginning.

    What I liked here is that you picked out these 4 elements and really drove it home. Getting people to think about WHY someone might be visiting their website is important and then compelling someone to easily convert once they are there is crucial–design is the flash, but these elements really are the driving force. Good call.

    (enjoyed your writing style too–you’ll definitely see a tweet for this one from @TeamSpectate!

  4. Joseph Putnam says:
    February 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Adam, I loved this post. There’s a sentence I’ve been using recently to describe this line of thought and it goes like this: “There’s more to internet marketing than beautiful web design.” A lot of people get caught up with designing a beautiful website, but they miss the key factors that increase conversions and sales. Like you’ve stated, you can have a less beautiful site and get better results with the right offer and clear calls to action than you can with a beautiful website that doesn’t emphasize a compelling offer or provide a clear call to action. So yes, I agree with your post and the premise behind it.

  5. Coswyn says:
    February 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Purpose, value, integrity, and usability.

  6. Levi says:
    February 20, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I guess I don’t see the difference between design and your blog, but you’re spot on! You basically can’t sell crap with an amazing design. Simple is the rage but simple must encompass these four points.

    Bingo on the blog!

  7. Tiffany says:
    February 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

    I love it! I am currently in the process of reworking my website and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. As I began the design and format, I look at every website of my competitors in my area…my company has a specific niche that no one else i the US has, but i wanted to be sure that my sight was more professional and attractive than those in my market. once that was accomplished, I focused on content. Here are a few things that I have found to be very important in my research.

    Clear Contact information with multiple avenues
    I do NOT like to fill out information and wait for a call back. I am sure I am not the only one. When I go to a site I want the following info under the contact tab…
    1. Phone number
    2. Hours of operation
    3. Email address
    4. Company address or mailing address if applicable

    If I am in need of services NOW i need to be able to contact the company asap, not wait for some one to get back to me who may not even check their email regularly.

    I need to see whats going on…I get tired of sites that are so scripted. I want to see what you are talking about. I don’t want to see pictures that you borrowed from other peoples sites. I want to see actual pictures of your product! I find that in my field I see a lot of recycled information and pictures on numerous sites.

    Call to action (piggy back)
    If you are selling something other than a service, I want to see prices and i want to be able to order online. I understand that some companies do NOT want to post their prices either because they know their prices are outrageous and/or because they are willing to negotiate based off of the quantity or project, but a ball park is nice to have. I want to know how much so I can shop around without having to make a bunch of phone calls. As a business owner, I want to make sure that those who do call are serious inquiries and understand the cost and services offered. I am more likely to close a sale or produce a lead if they know most of the info before they call. That means that when I answer the phone there is money on the other end.

  8. Manvendra says:
    February 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

    can’t agree more. Good read and would surely keep in mind the above points for my websites..

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