By AMA Madison | March 10, 2020 | Signature Speaker Series

Our March Signature Speaker Series luncheon featured Caroline Sober-James, Director of User Experience at Acumium, who shared practical UX and UI design ideas to drive conversions – in other words, tips on how to get your website visitors to do what you want them to do. 

As marketers, our instinct is to create original, eye-catching materials to grab people’s attention. 

But in the case of your website, being unique is not always effective. Conversions are built on the basics, meaning content, and familiarity bias is at play among your web visitors. 

Caroline shared a study showing that perceived beauty is highest when visual complexity is low and prototypicality is high.  

Simple and familiar layouts win by not distracting your visitors.

So how do we keep things simple and guide people where we want them to go?  Caroline offered suggestions for several aspects of your website.


Forms are an obvious and important tool for generating leads, and can be improved by heeding these recommendations:

  • The length of your form, and information you’re asking for, need to align with the perceived value of your offer.  
  • Single column, left-aligned form fields are best.
  • Field size should match the size of the data being requested.
  • Use a progress bar for long forms.
  • Group related fields together.
  • If most of your fields are required, note the optional fields instead of the required ones.


There’s a lot of data about how web visitors expect a site to function, and if it doesn’t meet their expectations, they’re out of there.  

Did you know 47% of people expect a site to load in two seconds or less?  

Your page load time can also affect your SEO, so be aware of things that can speed that up:

  • Store your photos in a CDN
  • Utilize fewer fonts throughout your site
  • Optimize your images
  • Test your load time using online test sites like

White Space

White space is an important tool.  

As Caroline put it, “white space is like a volume knob for distractions”.  Using white space effectively can improve reading comprehension and help our brains focus.

In addition, keep in mind that “the fold” is an outdated convention.  

Given all the various devices people use, the fold doesn’t really even exist anymore.  If you’ve created a compelling flow to your website, users don’t have any issue scrolling down, and 66% of people’s attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold.

No Carousel Sliders!

The carousel slider is completely ineffective, with only 1% of web visitors clicking on them.  

Sliders can also add to page load time, they’re bad for accessibility, and they take control away from the users.  Don’t use these!


Fifty-five percent of people spend less than fifteen seconds on a web page. 

This means your text needs to be concise and easy to read.  Caroline recommended making your content scannable:

  • Stick to one idea per paragraph
  • Highlight key words
  • Use bullet points
  • Include high-quality graphics
  • Remember that people hate marketing-speak.  Don’t make them filter out the hyperbole to get to your key messages.

Dark Patterns

These are tricks to get people to do things they don’t want to do. While they can increase your conversions in the short-term, they’ll seriously damage users’ trust in you long-term.  

Some dark pattern examples Caroline shared:

  • Confirmshaming – wording your decline option in such a way that you shame someone into opting in.  “No thanks, I’d prefer to keep spending more money on my current plan.”
  • Trick Questions
  • Misdirection
  • Forced Continuity – being automatically charged for a service after your free trial period has ended.
  • Roach Motel – easy to check in, hard to check out.  Have you ever tried to cancel your Amazon account?

Hack People’s Brains

Although dark patterns are not cool and should be avoided, there are strategic approaches to improving conversions that use psychology to get people to do what you want.  

Caroline’s approach is to either “do good or do no harm”, and these techniques can help by targeting the parts of people’s brains that drive decision-making on a primal level.

  • Use nouns, not verbs, to increase a sense of belonging.  It’s more impactful to say “I’m a voter” than to say “I voted today”.
  • Incur debt.  There are higher conversion rates for reciprocity than reward. If you give people valuable information upfront and then ask them to do something, they feel compelled to reciprocate.
  • Scarcity makes something irresistible.  We’ve all seen some excellent examples of this recently.
  • Danger, sex, and food wake up the primal part of people’s brains.

The key to all of these persuasion tactics boils down to three basic ideas that you want to inspire in your users:

  1. I see the value.
  2. I’m motivated to act.
  3. You make it easy for me.

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