Between Death Star projects, Darth Vader found himself at a loose end. Being the sort of guy that likes to keep himself busy he came to XadorLabs to take on some projects which we needed the universe’s hottest Creative Director for.
He seemed a bit different than in the movies (which made him out to be far more charming), and he didn’t wear his usual helmet for the interview so you could see bits of his brain and the various levers and pulleys that keep him going. Not sure if I had the right guy, but these days with all the fandangled SFX wizardry it’s impossible to know what’s what anymore. I didn’t like to judge. Well, not until I started working with Vader.
Anyway, he talked the talk and had a cruel eye for detail while keeping his eye on the prize. Pedantic, manipulative, self-vindicating, mostly irrational, all the qualities of a seasoned Creative Director. We did the usual background checks and called his referees – Senator Palpatine, C3P0 and some Ewoks. He checked out fine.
First day in and this guy is totally off the hook with his constant complaining. We even got him a small brush to clean out the bits in his respirator, and some helmet wax as a welcome gift. Big mistake! The brush was “a little bit too coarse” and he had trouble taking the cap off the wax.
Nothing was ever right or good enough. Even the cinnamon on his cappuccino was the wrong brand. His poor PA would spend most of the day organizing his personal life and suffering various rants about universal domination, plus all the stuff that happened to his Death Star. It went on and on. After most of the staff from the creative team went “missing” it was time to reel him in.
I admired his passion and consistent contempt for all things, but you can’t put someone with no social filter and a zero tolerance vibe in front of potential clients.
So, how to capitalize on a guy that doesn’t like anything and can find fault in the slightest thing and demands everything his way? Darth Vader, you just got promoted to Landing Page Teardown Director.
We gave him the perfect position, where he could complain, rant, and air his opinions to a compassionate ear. It was probably the first time in Vader’s life anyone truly listened to him and he loved it!
He soon became one of the gang. Staff attrition was on the decline and through listening we leveled up our game using his objections to create more efficient and polished designs. As as result, conversions skyrocketed, risks went down, and ROI went up.
The idea here is to indulge your righteous side, rip someone’s work to pieces objectively (most importantly your own), highlight elements that could be improved upon, and verbalize how you would improve them. We like to go as deep and be as petty as possible with a focus on constructive criticism. This is the path to honing your craft, or “Force” as Vader would put it. “The Force is weak with this one”, we would often hear him say when presented with a new design – and then he would explain why.
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While it was a rough start, Darth Vader – you are XadorLabs employee of the month.
Now let’s feast! Today’s project in question examines a seemingly innocent offer to “Read a Guide”. The journey starts off with an ad I found on Linkedin, Jan 2019.
Ad Design Critique
There’s not a lot working well from a design or message perspective here. It’s very “busy” and trying to say too many things without saying much at all.
Firstly, I’d look at redesigning the ad to be more integrated. The left side appears unrelated to the right side – it could be a different ad altogether. A simple frame around the two sections or using a contrasting colour to the page background would help glue this design together.
Flipping the blue panel with the red/white section would help bring the main message to the user’s attention, as well as moving the company logo to top left for prominence.
The Call to action button feels a bit lost, using a more contrasting colour would help to make it stand out. Better still, I would use the arrow device to draw the user’s attention to a redesigned “target” info-graphic that is the call to action button if these elements were mandatory.
The copy is also confusing with multiple messages. Firstly, it assumes we all know what MSP is. When I start reading this ad the first thing I see is “MSP”. Nowhere in the ad copy does it say “Management Service Provider”. Let’s not assume everyone is up with the jargon and acronyms.
This is a fairly dry and unengaging business related ad. We need to remember that real people buy the product/services in the end, so appealing to people on an emotional level is helpful. Ad copy needs to offer a solution to a problem. I did like the “Finding That Sweet Spot” angle which is a bit more emotive and relatable in terms of language. Graphically, this ad missed the opportunity to support the “find that sweet spot” angle which could easily lend itself to some relatable metaphors.
Overall this ad looks dated, circa 1999. I would approach this from another perspective. It seems the product is designed to help find a balanced win-win, tipping point or “sweet spot” as they put it.
A simple info-graphic of scales tilting in the product’s favor that says balance, order, and simplicity could reflect more on the offer. This ad is anything like the guide and it could speak, it would say, “I’m going to be cluttered, outdated, confusing, and i’m going to make it frustrating trying to learn how to use me”. This is probably not the case. This guide could be amazing, but the ad is speaking for it first. Its new and improved 2019 self would say “I’m simple, clear, and organized, I’m going to give you more free time”.
Landing Page Design Critique
The first thing we notice here is a new heading that was not in the ad. “Drive Profits with Pricing” is quite solid and direct as a headline. At XadorLabs, we are sticklers for continuity. This is where “message matching” becomes important.
Why are there commas in those sentences?! Why does Agreement Pricing have capital letters? What does flight risk mean in this context. What am I downloading?
From ad to landing page to sign-up confirmation, reusing the same headings and calls to action instill confidence in your offer and reiterate your message. “Drive Profits with Pricing” needed to be back one step in the ad copy and carried throughout. Throughout this PPC flow I recommend two consistent key messages. The heading “Drive Profits with Pricing” and the call to action “Download the guide”.
The brand/logo that was in the ad? Nowhere to be seen on the landing page. This also needs to be reiterated, ideally at the top of the page and consistent with the ad’s logo placement. Your brand is your hero and you should fly its flag with pride.
Branding is about trust. People want to know they’re dealing with a reputable, thoughtful company. Regardless of what you sell or what you think about advertising, brands become part of people’s day-to-day identity. They’re a graphical stamp that we use to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. In this case, your customer could be downloading this from any other company.
The call to action on the landing page is also different from the one on the ad. Now it reads “Ready to Download”. In the ad it read “Read this Guide”. I would change both buttons to read “Download our guide” and make them the same contrasting orange colour as seen in the landing page.
Overall this is an uninspiring page that could use updating for a fresher, more human feel – maybe showing the guide rendered as a 3D book. Even on the ad it’s not clear what the goal is.
You would think you would just click the ad then click through to get the guide, but there’s another level to get through. Be up front and direct about what you want your customers to do. Pave the experience all the way with consistency through message matching and branding.
Clicking the call to action “Ready to download” scrolls us down the page to a form to collect user details and get the guide. Give something to get something. It’s a good trade and gets a tick for best practice.
While the page renders nicely on desktop, it is a shambles on pad and mobile. Testing on at least three different screen resolutions is vital and considered standard. On smaller screens, the user input fields become tiny and almost unusable, with very short reading lines that make for unnecessarily long scrolling. The final call to action lacks consistency and message matching with “Get it” button copy as the call to action.
Response Page Critique
So here I go – wish me luck and give me a minute as I type in my details to get the lead magnet.
After giving my details it takes me straight to the following page. No welcome or thank-you response page or email is sent out confirming my interaction. I just get dumped in this cluttered page with a multitude of other options to get lost in. I wasn’t expecting this, and it provides a great example of how we don’t want to treat a potential customer.
This page is also not even on the company’s URL. To instil trust in your brand and offer, landing pages are best hosted on a company’s sub domain. This means your fancy corporate site can’t be tampered with and it’s under your company’s online umbrella of trust.
To make things worse, the page says “Download Your Free Copy” so I have to go yet another step to get the “gold”. For the icing on the cake I can even choose to “Skip the form”. You can access the webinar and download your free guide at any time”. The poor end-user is probably thinking “Why did I have to go through all this” and “What webinar?” as this is the first time a webinar has been mentioned.
Let’s break it down and look at the steps the potential customer has to do to get to this point:
1: Click the link in the ad “Read this Guide”
2: Click the “Ready to Download” link in the landing page to get to the form
3: Click the form call to action “Get it”
4: Click “Download Now” on the “response” page.
At the bitter end of these steps where I have given away minutes of my life, it then tells me to “Skip the form”. The flow to get to the download is way too long, and by the time I got my PDF I wasn’t in the mood to read it.
This project could have been designed using two clicks so the user could start a relationship with your company/offer with the least amount of friction.
1: Click from ad
2: Fill out personal details and click from form in landing page
Every step you add decreases conversion rates significantly. Less is more. Click from ad, click from input form, and you’re done.
Users gets an instant thank-you with access to any downloadable assets and an immediate message-matched email response linked to any associated assets, information, vouchers or access details for later use.
NB: Two days later I did receive an email into my “Social” Gmail inbox. The “Primary” inbox is where you really want to get. Gmail is quite crafty and learns the difference between a personal and commercial email but there are certain ways you can structure an email and write copy to give a better chance of getting into the primary inbox. Also it was sent from the CEO’s name, using the company name would have been more consistent, for instance I don’t know a Larry.
This ad, page, and flow represents how to make hard work of something that needs to be easy to get optimal results. Lets bullet point the problems:
- Poor to zero use of branding and positioning.
- It was optimized for desktop use, but has poor usability and long scrolling on mobile and pad resolutions. Mobile accounts for over 50% of internet browsing now, so it’s not optional to get this right – it’s a necessity.
- Overall the design feels outdated and stale.
- The tone of voice is unengaging.
- There are too many steps to get to conversion, thus creating too many bounce points.
- Poor message matching consistency throughout.
- No immediate response welcome email or thank you page.
- This experience left me feeling I didn’t need to go through all these steps to simply read a guide.
There’s always something to learn for any tear down. There is no such thing as a perfect page. However, with best practices, common sense, consistent messaging, and imagination your conversion rates and return on ad spend can be greatly improved.
Got questions about your next landing page project? Feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org