Conversion practices and usability


Recently, I had a Design vs. Marketing debate with my design firm for some customers. The designer-debater made some really good points. But I was delighted to be at the UIE seminar in DC and see lots of my debating thoughts validated. Here are three:

1) Although designers often say, “Don’t write long text, people don’t read it,” the usability guys validated my thought that long text is just fine if it matters to the visitor. Long pages, they pointed out in DC, tend to have more scent.

2) I couldn’t get Christine Perfetti, who spoke for half the day in Washington, to agree that blue underlined links work better than other kinds of signals that a link is clickable. “Test it,” she said. But when Jarad Spool got up to speak, he said, “Hey, a Swiss astrophysicist [Tim Berners-Lee, who really did create the Internet] chose blue underlined links, and now we’ve all been conditioned to click when we see a blue underlined link.”

3) And my favorite: I always want to hyperlink lots of different words on one page to the exact same page. Designers say to me, “Why? You’ve already linked to that page twice. It just breaks up the flow of the copy.” But the usability guys said something like, “Users just want to get their job done. If they get to the correct page using one link instead of another, they don’t care. They don’t even notice that there were five other links on the homepage taking them to the same category page.” In fact, Spool & Co. suggested that multiple links using different words work in the websites favor, because they increase the chances that a particular visitor will see the words he is looking for in a link – and click.


Our owner and CEO, Robbin Steif, started LunaMetrics twelve years ago. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a recent Diamond Award for business leadership. You should read her letter before you decide to work with us.

  • Randy Ziegler

    To continue the friendly debate, I’d like to respond from a designer’s persepctive to your points.

    1. RE: Don’t write long text, people don’t read it”
    While I agree that readers will tolerate long narrative if it’s valuable content, my concern has to do more with chunking information to provide multiple points of access—and better at-a-glance understanding. It’s a usability and access issue. Long narrative doesn’t provide visual handles for readers to skim and quickly find information that really matters to them.

    2. RE: Blue, underline links. And Lots of hyperlinks.
    You’re right. We’ve been conditioned. Blue, underline links are commonly understood as links. My concern is more of an issue of quantity. Don’t go overboard. Be judicious. Don’t get sloppy with throwing links on everything. Otherwise the page look will look like it has blue chicken pox. We’ve all seen it before. The overall affect is confusion. I think even Spool’s research has demonstrated that too many navigation choices affect usability. Each link interrupts the reader’s thought process, if only for a moment, to consider the value and utility of the link.

    Glad you enjoyed the conference!

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