Why are your sales pages more crappy than a wood full of bears?

Do you look at your sales pages performance and think “meh”. If you’re not a sales page creating god or goddess, some of the pointers here may help you up your game and create better performing sales pages.

If the appearance of your sales pages is your highest priority, you might want to move along. Some of the points here will make your pages appear uglier and more boring.

Oh yes, I have no doubt some people will disagree with some of these, but each to their own.

You design the page first, write the copy last

The supreme cocknobbit of sales page creation mistakes and yet an astoundingly common approach. Having studied and worked as a graphic designer for many years, I admit I used to be regularly guilty of this.

Design is art, vision, sexy, exciting.

Copywriting is, well, er…writing, copy.

However, copy is what persuades people to jump on board and buy your product.

Before you even think about what your page is going to look like, spend all the time you can spare writing the best, most persuasive copy you can.

Oh, and if you’re one of those people who sees someone else’s sales page and thinks, ooooh, I want my next sales page to look like that, stop it now!

You choose form over function

I think this is closely related to the previous point.

You start a page with a vision of how it should look. Rather than focusing on making every element of the page work hard at persuading readers to become customers, you see each element as part of the overall design.

If you’re focusing on what the page looks like, you’re failing to focus on what the page is meant to be doing – making readers realize that they need your product.

You select poorly designed, hard to read fonts

You can literally select from tens of thousands of fonts online, a huge number of them completely free. The problem is, a huge number of them are utter crap too.

Massimo Vignelli was one of the great designers of the 20th and early 21st century. He believed you only needed five font families to cover all the design work you ever undertake. I’m guessing he never had to design a few witty t-shirts for Zazzle.com as five does sound a bit restrictive.

However, I think it’s a great discipline to try and limit the number of fonts that you select from. Find a small selection of good quality fonts and restrict your choices to those. Your pages will be better and your work flow speed will benefit too.

And yes I know all those fancy, scripty, hand drawn fonts on Creative Market are very popular, but they make it very hard to scan a page quickly.

You use a too small font for your body copy

You want your page to be classy and sophisticated like a sack full of French fashion designers. That’s why you set your copy at 12px because it takes up little space and makes for an attractive block of dark gray to contrast with the abundant white space.

Makes it a bugger to read though, doesn’t it? Who cares, you just want customers with 20/20 vision.

Though if you were open to serving the visually hindered, you really should set your text at least 16px, though I’d push you to a size of 18-20px.

Interestingly, earlier today I saw a Todd Brown sales page with the body copy set to 24px on desktop screens. Even I’d feel that was a bit oversize on anything less than an FHD resolution screen, but if someone of his experience is going big on body font sizes, you might want to too.

You use a whop-off sized font for headings

Sure you may think I’m fickle having just been complaining about too small fonts, but I’m not.

A great sales page will summarize the content in the headings, so someone could skim the page and get the key points from the headings. Actually writing copy that does that job is probably beyond most of us, but we should aim for that.

If headings are set in a font that is too large, they can become very difficult to read as the page is scanned. Plan your heading sizes so that there’s enough difference between different levels to make the hierarchy clear, but don’t choose sizes that are unnecessarily large.

You have very long lines of text on desktop screens

Long lines of text can be difficult to read, so ideally aim for your line lengths to be somewhere between 50 and 75 characters in length.

As long as your pages are responsive, this won’t be an issue on mobile devices, but it’s very common to see sales pages on desktops that have text running the full width of the screen.

Your pages aren’t responsive

I’m guessing you’re creating your sales pages on a computer, but are you testing how they look on smaller screen sizes?

If you’re not, there could be all manner of odd things going on with your pages when viewed on a phone. This article explains how to quickly check different screen sizes in your browser, but you really should check on real phones and tablets too.

You use low contrast color combinations for text and backgrounds

This is another side effect of focusing on making the page look nice rather than making the content accessible. Pure black text on a white a background ensures your text is as clear as possible for all users.

If you don’t want to use black text, then aim for a very dark color. Also, when you use a background color behind body text, make it as light as possible to maintain good contrast.

You place important text over images

Placing text over images can look stylish, but it can also make the text illegible. (Hopefully by now you are getting the point that your text needs to be legible)

This problem can be made worse by the fact your pages can be viewed on many different screen sizes. As that causes text to reflow, you may find text is legible at some screen sizes and illegible at others.

Generally only overlay short headings on images. Even then, ideally use a semi-transparent box behind the text to help it stand out. If you don’t want to do that, at the very least add a drop shadow to the text in a color that contrasts with the text, though in that case I refer you back to the form over function point.

You use images for decoration

A picture says a 1,000 words.

Don’t ever add an image unless you know what at least the first 500 or so of those words are.

You should use images to quickly communicate ideas in the same way that headings should help explain the page to readers who are skimming the content. Do not use an image because you’ve got a bit of space to fill and it’ll make the page look prettier.

Who knows how it might unconsciously influence readers and perhaps not in a good way.

You animate elements with no good reason

This one really gets my goat. It is king, queen and prince of nobbing around with form over function.

Copywriters often advise that we should use headings that will convey the meaning of a page even if someone quickly scrolls down and reads none of the copy.

That’s not easy to do at the best of times, but it’s even harder if every heading, image and paragraph has been animated to slide into position as the reader scrolls.

I’ve literally lost count of the number of pages where I’ve scrolled to the bottom of the page, and not at breakneck speed, without reading a single thing because elements only appeared after I scrolled past them.

A little animation might be an effective way to draw attention to something important, but if everything’s animated, what’s the point?

Incidentally, don’t confuse this with lazy loading images that only load when they become visible to the reader to speed up page load times.

You randomly scatter buy buttons throughout the page

A common piece of advice is to scatter multiple by buttons throughout long form sales pages so that a reader is always close to a button to get to the checkout.

However, that increases the chances of readers going to the checkout page before being truly ready to buy. They reach the checkout and, being reminded of how much they’re about to spend, they realize they still have some objections that your copy hasn’t yet neutralized.

In the worse case scenario, they keep hitting the back button until they’ve left your page completely.

Even in the best case scenario where they resume reading your sales page, they may now be subject to a psychological cue that makes it harder for your page to close the sale.

Forgetting about human psychology, if you really believe your audience is too dim to scroll down a page to find a buy button, is it ethically defensible for you to be selling to these people?

Assuming your audience aren’t morons, multiple buy buttons may have a place in low-priced and short form sales pages and you can read some more in depth thoughts on this article on multiple buy buttons.

In long form sales pages, however, don’t insert buy buttons into the page until you’re confident the copy has addressed all the possible objections to buying.

You use harmonious colors for CTA buttons

There’s a saying, popularized particularly by copywriters, that ugly sells. It’s not true. Ignoring the fact that defining ugly is subjective, ugly adverts stand out because they contrast with the attractive adverts around them.

When designing your pages, it’s tempting to use harmonious colors for all aspects of the page. However, as ugly as it may look to your eyes, you should be using contrasting colors to make important elements stand out clearly, such as call to action buttons.

You end headings with periods

This is a small detail that may have little effect in the real world. However, a study did find that when a heading ended in a period or full stop, less people continued to read the text after the heading.

The thought is that it presents a natural cue for readers to unconsciously ask themselves if they want to continue reading.

You’re probably not going to suddenly become rich from following this, but why wouldn’t you?

You fight against reading gravity

We naturally read English text from left to right and top to bottom. The more we read, the more we scroll down the page. That’s the natural reading flow.

It can be tempting to be inspired by magazine layouts and get creative with the layout of pages. That can cause the eye to make many unnatural movements, which interferes with the reading flow.

You may think a single column from top to bottom is dreadfully boring, but it lets the reader’s eye flow naturally.

You justify text

If you come from the world of print, perhaps publishing physical books, you are probably used to justifying text. That is adding spacing between words so that every line is the same length.

A downside of justifying text is that sometimes the increased inter-word spacing can form “rivers” of white space running down the page across multiple lines. In print, this can be manually adjusted.

Online, because so many different screen sizes are used, we don’t have the same control, so always left-justify/rag-right your text.