How better UI Web design increased my conversions by 200%

Good UI (User Interface) design, on the Web, plays a vital role in helping customers understand your products and services, and can improve conversion rates dramatically.

Recently, I undertook to upgrade an existing website that offers tracking, analytics and market research services for retailers and publishers selling books and products via Amazon.

This market research site, RankTracer, was originally designed in 2006, based on osCommerce platform - anyone looking to design an eCommerce site today should instead consider alternative, market leading shopping cart software at Top shopping cart software, 2013.

This article shows how relatively simple and minor improvements to RankTracer increased its conversion rates three-fold overnight.

Web design for high conversion rates

High conversion rates are absolutely essential for online businesses - especially for eCommerce sites. Just about the most important aspect of designing for conversions is usability.


In order for a site to be usable, it must be:

  1. Simple
  2. Clear
  3. Intuitive

Ok, so most people understand this from a theoretical point of view.

No one in their right mind intentionally obfuscates the path to a successful conversion.

But taking a process that you understand very well, and making it easy for someone else to understand is not always a trivial exercise.

Usability analysis

What helped me improve the usability of RankTracer immensely was the time I took away from actively developing it. Taking a step back reduced my familiarity with how the site operated.

As it happened, much later on, I had to setup an account for a new client. Going through the setup process (as I had a hundred times before), with fresh eyes, made it very clear that the site's design was not simple, it was not clear, and it was not intuitive.

Other than encouraging new clients to sign up, there was almost no additional support and help to guide people to where they needed to be.

Not only was this the direct cause of a lack of conversions, but the bad user experience frustrated customers who wanted the service, were prepared to pay, but couldn't work out how.

Something had to be done.

Conversion analysis

The mistake that I (and many other online businesses) made was not to properly consider the steps a visitor must take in order to convert when I originally designed the site.

A conversion, in the case of RankTracer, consists of a customer purchasing a subscription to track the sales of one or more books or products on Amazon. In order to do that, they must:

  1. Create a free account
  2. Enter the ISBN of a product(s) they want to track
  3. Select duration and locale (i.e. .com,, .de, etc)
  4. Add the subscription to their shopping cart
  5. Repeat steps 2 - 4 for as many products as they want to track
  6. Complete checkout

With that in mind, the usability improvements I had to make became a lot more obvious because I could focus on building a sales funnel, with clearly defined steps.

Designing for conversions

By mapping out the steps I wanted a customer to take, in order to successfully track one or more products, I was able to make a few minor changes to guide them through that process.

Here's what I did (I know, it's surprisingly little):

  1. Added a short, friendly message to each step in the conversion process confirming the customer had done the right thing
  2. Added a link to go to the next step

These changes greatly improved the usability of the site for new customers.

People, especially when they are undertaking something new or different, want to know two things:

  1. They are doing things right
  2. They are making definite progress towards a successful resolution

By tweaking the design of the site I was able to turn a procedure that was frustrating and confusing, into something quick and easy.

Usability improvements and conversions

Since the site already has a steady flow of visitors signing up to the service (but not converting successfully), the results of my usability upgrades were almost instantaneous.

Conversions and revenue tripled almost instantly, and have remained steady ever since. Quite simply, making it easier to convert led to more conversions.

To summarize, I would say that in order to have a successful online business, regardless of what products and services you are selling, make sure you:

  • have a clear value offering
  • make it very, very easy to convert

What conversion rates does your business generate? Are you happy with the shape of your sales funnel? What techniques have you used to improve conversions?

Share your usability, Web design, and conversion tips and advice in the comments.

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Mobile first, responsive Web design is something that can't be ignored because devices likes tablets and smartphones are quickly becoming the dominant browsing device of choice for the burgeoning millennial market.

If you are one of those unlucky people to have built your site more than a few years ago, on a platform that used the old table based Web design paradigm, then you have two choices: