Event Recap: Convert Like Crazy

AIGA Santa Barbara pulled off a coup this past weekend, producing back-to-back events for what we dubbed our “April Double-Header.” Game One took place at workzones on Friday night: a collaboration with StartupSB that brought copywriter Lianna Patch and designer Julia Sevin from New Orleans to Santa Barbara for a presentation about smart design and snappy copy called “Convert Like Crazy: 10 Design & Copy Hacks You Can’t Afford to Miss.” Directed at entrepreneurs and designers, it was a hit, inspiring furious note-taking as attendees pecked at their phones to take in each tip.

What’s a Conversion?

Lianna began the discussion by defining conversion as “any time a recipient of a marketing message takes action—like for sales, sign-ups, or lead generations—actions which are trackable and quantifiable with the right tools.” Lianna also covered other conversion basics: something to sell/offer, access to a website’s back end (“buy it dinner first!”), graphics tools, and understanding of hierarchies. Any web page optimized for conversion should be intuitive no matter the end goal, especially if it’s a landing page designed specifically for that inbound traffic. She punctuated the intro with prurient puns and lurid wordplay—a harbinger for the entire presentation.

Converting with Copy

Lianna continued by calmly exhorting everyone to not overlook their website’s copy. “Don’t assume that users will only skim what you write. Make it easy for them to read every word.” She encouraged everyone to do this by getting to know their audience: creating targeted customer personas via message mining (customer interviews/surveys), paying attention to message hierarchies (primary, secondary, etc.), breaking up big chunks of body copy, using social proof for effective calls to action, and connecting the dots for users via life-changing features or benefits. Those, plus editing out anything not pushing the reader to continue, would prevent the website’s copy from being a “conversion killer” (a running gag illustrated by Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, Jason Voorhees, and other notorious fictional murderers).


Converting with Design

Julia then tapped in to power through methods for functional and consistent design. The AIGA New Orleans president defined that as “persuasive, psychologically driven visuals and layouts: how branding, typefaces, colors, and graphics come together to compel action.” Julia emphasized simplification and hierarchy in design, so that nothing gets in the way of successful conversions. She illustrated this with examples of how it’s been done poorly (Kraft’s jarring logo redesign) and very well (Target’s on-message visuals and consistent branding). Julia also discussed button design, demolished the myth of “the fold” (everyone’s used to scrolling by now) and covered basic do’s and don’ts. Smart image and code optimization (appropriate file sizes and types) for fast load times (ideally 200 milliseconds to 5 seconds), and 16-18 pixels for body type size all got a thumbs-up. Design conversion killers included graphic text, clichéd stock photos, using 100% black, and Patrick Bateman.

ABT: Always Be Testing

Finally, Lianna returned for a quick tour of how to quantify the optimization process. She advocated growth-driven design, or “paying attention to where your site isn’t doing its best work, and optimizing those areas,” and recommended using tools that measure traffic metrics like clicks, signups, purchases, or downloads. Lianna also advised conducting A/B tests with one element at a time for the most actionable data, and even A/A tests for not changing anything in order to test the tool itself. After posting a resource list and doing a short Q&A session, the presenters adjourned, disappearing into the night to hunt for conversion killers still at large. The only proof any of this ever happened is the audio recording below. Check it out for everything not covered in this recap!

AIGA SB thanks Lianna Patch and Julia Sevin for their wisdom, Kyle Ashby of StartupSB for collaborating on event production, Lisa Riolo and Summer Hodges of workzones for their hospitality, Lee Abbott for videography (video coming soon!), Jacob Tell of Oniracom for his generous event sponsorship, and our audience for their attendance. Last but certainly not least, thanks to the evening’s AIGA SB board volunteers: Nicki Gauthier, Patty Devlin-Driskel, Gen Matsui, Tom Hinkle, Cassi Lindberg, and David Cowan.

Rock Star Gig Rating: On a scale of “zero” to “insane,” this one was insane in the very best way, and it would have been impossible without everyone’s help. I mean, “crazy” is right there in the event title. Imagine a multiple-night stand by a stadium rock band, and you might come close to how much fun this weekend was.

Photography by Keir DuBois, Kyle Ashby, and Jacob Tell.

By Keir DuBois
Published April 19, 2016
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