Does Website Design Influence Conference Decisions?

DesignAs I scan a "Top 20 Marketers" list, I spot a name I've never seen before. I figure if he's good enough to earn a spot on this list, he's worth another click to look at his website. While the design was so-so, the first couple of blog headlines caught my eye, so I decided read on. The content was helpful, so I subscribed to his blog.

Moments later, I get an email from this same marketer that looks like it was designed in 1993, so I quickly unsubscribe.

Design might not earn you that "yes" decision, but it sure can provoke a "no."

Did you ever walk into one of those small boutique shops and within seconds you knew this was not the place for you? There's often just one person working in the shop who greets you warmly (you're the only customer in the shop). Since you're a decent person with a heart, you linger longer than you'd like, pretending to browse while you plan your exit strategy.

In the digital world, that two-minute polite linger never happens. If what we see in the first few seconds fails to engage, it's one click and we're out.

First impressions are powerful. Why would you invest all that time to develop strong content, only to blow it on amateurish design?

Website design flaws that tend to push me away:

  • Too busy
  • Too much animation
  • These colors are making me nauseous
  • Same stock photos used by countless others
  • Font choices are difficult to read or old-school

Like it or not, design elements shape our first impressions. Who's designing your conference website? What's informing their design choices? Are they designing on a whim or with purpose and insight about your target audience?

Color can be a big influencer. Is Princeton Orange a legacy choice still in place because back in 1963, your Executive Director happened to be a Princeton alum? How's that color working for you today? (Here's a post from the Cvent blog archives with more on color: The Psychology of Color.)

Go find people who resemble your target audience, but have never visited your website. Ask them to take a quick look and give you some candid and constructive feedback. What's catching their eye first? What's pushing them away?

Keep in mind, opinions will differ, so don't start making large scale changes based on this informal survey. That said, if there's a particular thing that's getting called out repeatedly, start there.

Smart, purposeful design coupled with strong, relevant content is a must. Today's conference audience is far more discerning and many demand both before they'll register for your event.

PS: This post from Mashable is a worth a look, too: 4 Common Website Design Mistakes to Avoid

(photo by fotologic via Flickr)

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