Software

Drive online business with landing pages

Tony Patton outlines the elements of an effective landing page and discusses the importance of testing these pages.
Editor's note: This article was originally published April 30, 2007.

Since the inception of the Web, sites have evolved from online brochures to sophisticated applications, providing interaction along with information as well as many more features. While Web sites have evolved, users still want and need information, and companies still need to push their products or services. This post examines one component of a Web site that is used to interact with potential or existing customers: landing pages.

Clear to land

Web sites often include one or more landing pages that are created for a very specific purpose. This includes attracting new customers, collecting leads, gathering information, and so forth. Links to landing pages are often included in e-mails.

When a user arrives on your site, you want them to do something like make a purchase, register for a newsletter, and so forth. Taking action results in a conversion and getting these conversions is a critical aspect of a successful site, e-mail campaign, etc.

Theoretically, any site page can be considered a landing page since a search engine or another link may deliver a user to it. For the sake of this article, landing pages will be defined as unique pages constructed to welcome people from a particular e-mail campaign, newsletter, or another marketing effort. With that in mind, let's take a look at the elements of an effective landing page.

Elements of a landing page

Designing an effective landing page can mean the difference between getting and not getting a customer. In terms of page layout and design, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Place the company or product logo in the upper left corner of the page. All graphics should be related to the offer or idea presented.
  • Use headlines that clearly state the biggest benefit(s) of an offer. Headlines are very important since they are most often the first line that a user reads.
  • Be concise and get to the point because users usually scan a page's content as opposed to give it a close reading. Bullets allow a user to quickly scan the content. The key is providing a direct path to the offer presented on the page (i.e., the reason the user landed on the page).
  • Don't place external links on the page. Provide only the options that you want to the user to choose such as completing a form or placing an order.
  • Design with 640 x 480 screen resolution in mind and avoid forcing the user to scroll horizontally.
  • Keep in mind that the most important area of the page/screen is in front of the user, so place everything important above the fold of the page. Content placed below the fold is often lost, as users do not bother to scroll to read it.
  • Disclose data collection practices by clearly posting privacy policies.
  • When collecting data via forms, keep the number of fields on the form as small as possible. After all, a user is more likely to complete a small form, whereas a lengthy list of questions may discourage them. A check box allowing the user to opt in or out, of e-mail communications is a standard practice.

Test, test, and test some more

The first step is testing to ensure the page meets the technical specifications and works as planned in the targeted browsers. Once you are certain it works as designed, you can move on to testing whether the page actually meets its business need.

By determining the effectiveness of the message on the page, you will learn what works best with regards to the copy, layout, and presentation. This type of testing may involve focus groups, or it may be as simple as tracking page usage via the Web logs. Items to test include page colors, fonts, element placement, and so forth along with button presentation, product pricing, text, etc. Web analytics and statistics software may be utilized to gauge site traffic and usage.

What are your tips for creating landing pages?

If you use landing pages in your applications or marketing efforts, are there any tips to creating these pages that you would like to add to this list? Which method do you prefer to use to measure the effectiveness of such pages? Share your thoughts with the Web development community by posting to the discussion.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

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About

Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a productio...

7 comments
biteme
biteme

Half of the design suggestions were out-of-date even in 2007. Feels like this was written in 1997!

Sagax-
Sagax-

While Biteme has written above that it seems out of date, I disagree. Too many webpage authors have loaded pages with so much "gee whiz" eye candy that the landing page is sometimes not properly rendered in [/b]all[b} browsers. Some require excessive loading time. Most will become a problem for those using an iPhone or something like it. In short, they loose the objective of the page. Only the image builder pages profit from such over top pages. The pages intended to provide information or move the customer to the "Buy Now" button should do so as quickly and efficiently as possible.,

Amnezia
Amnezia

When I'm browsing comments on TR, sometimes the pages take over 10 seconds to load. If the reply header has really piqued my interest I'll wait. But if not I quickly cancel the page and move on to something else. The point is, the user determines the page-load/"gee whiz value" time in relation to their impression of the value of the information they perceive to be available. Unless the user feels the information cannot be missed, their individual "patience level exceeded" time will determine when they'll switch off. None of us know that time, so making important pages load fast is a major factor in keeping their interest. After all, there's millions of search results to check in Google.

Timothy J. Bruce
Timothy J. Bruce

One thing that wasn't added in the article, and while obvious, isn't included on a lot of pages I've been to is contact information. Provide a link where I can contact the company for additional information (I know - my personal site doesn't even have that....YET). Email Address, business address, and/or phone number. Too many sites are dropping this these days, which has been unfortunate because those sites lost MY sale. This could even be a link on the page (small type with a link to another page). And it seems so obvious....... Tim

bradhansen
bradhansen

One bullet point mentions "Don't place external links on the page." I would expand that to don't even place your standard site navigation links on landing pages. Standard navigation is probably appropriate on the "thank you" page, once your site visitor has completed the action intended on the landing page. If the site visitor got to your landing page by error (or just because the link was handy in an email) they'll probably be smart enough to click on your logo to bring them to your home page (which would include all your standard navigation). If your landing page is more of a clone of a print media campaign, and doesn't include an obvious link to your site's home page, then that's the one navigation link that should be included. Other than that, you want to ensure that anyone who visits that landing page remains focused on the page's call to action.

cto
cto

I should know, I built a web-based app that uses the landing page 2 step model. It collects a lead on the first page and collects billing information on the second page. My customers have sold $20 million of stuff in the last 2 years using this model. You'll need a strong sales letter with an offer that can't be passed up.