For a UX (user experience) designer, there is an array of things to consider when designing a website for conversions, from planning the overall experience to designing the site flow, the information architecture, and much more. While these are all very important, in this article we’re going to take a quick look at the final conversion point, and something called salience.
Salience is defined by Wikipedia as ‘the state or condition of being prominent’, while the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as ‘most noticeable or important’. To us, it is the design of objects or areas of a page to set them apart, indicate importance, and ultimately guide action.
If you own or build any sort of digital property, chances are you’re aiming for people to convert somewhere along the line. A conversion, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is the completion of any defined goal on your website. This may be selling a product, generating a lead via a contact form, or simply encouraging people to read a certain number of articles.
So, Why Is Salience Important?
Salience guides people on your site. It inspires behaviour, decisions and propensity to convert. Your and your user’s goals are not mutually exclusive: while you are seeking to inspire certain actions, visitors to your site are likely looking to achieve a goal, too. By guiding users correctly, you are creating a mutually beneficial environment.
Okay, Let's Look At An Example
First, let’s look at a bad example of salience:
Have a look at the image above (click the 'FIAT' link above for a better view).
If I gave you 10 seconds to make a decision on what to do, would you be able to commit? No? Well, no surprises here; without salience, we struggle to determine which direction to take, or which actions would provide with value or help on our path to finding what we want (even if we're not sure whether we want anything yet).
Ford South Africa (Good)
Ford South Africa’s website makes it very easy to make a decision. Their main call to action is clearly contrasted against the background, and made to stand out. (Click the 'Ford, South Africa' link above for a better view).
Assuming that you’re at least a little interested in Ford (given that you’ve made your way to the site), it’s quite easy for you to make a decision. Even without a purpose, the clear call to ‘experience’ the new Ranger is quite appealing. If that doesn’t entice you, you can still easily differentiate between the most useful actions to take.
There is a very evident hierarchy, and the options available to you are clearly laid out and grouped in an easy-to-digest format.
Better Site Salience – A 5-step Guide
By now, you should have some idea of what good salience entails, and why it is valuable.
Let’s go through a quick checklist to make sure your site is guiding visitors correctly:
1. Investigate your content
Explore the content of your site. Understand what you are offering, where you think visitors would find value, and where this value assists your goals.
2. Define what is most relevant
Sketch out a priority. Find which parts, and which paths on your site are most important to both you and your visitors, and make note of them.
3. Group your calls-to-action
Once you understand how you want your visitors to move through the site, decide on your calls-to-action. Play with these and decide on which elements need to be grouped, and which need to stand alone. Often, your most important calls-to-action will be independently positioned, and take priority over others.
4. Structure to stand out
Now that you know which action points go together, and which are more important, plot them across your pages. You can do this roughly on a piece of paper to start. Think about things such as the position on the page, which items should stand out more than others, and the relative size of your calls-to-action in relation to the other elements on your page.
5. Inspire your design
Finally, work closely with design to ensure that your vision is understood and communicated correctly. Remember, things will often change with design, but as long as you are guiding the process with clear intentions, the result should come out as planned.
Above all, remember to keep salience in mind. Inspiring your visitors’ behaviour in a direction that adds value is the best way to keep them engaged, and ultimately maximise conversions on your site.