Designer or not, creating a landing page entails knowing how to get inside your visitors’ heads. In this post, I’ll talk about landing page design principles you can apply to get your readers to convert. I’ll also demonstrate these concepts in action through real-world examples and examples of actual landing pages.
I’ve discussed what should go in your landing page, but before you even start creating one, you need to think about design. The landing page copy and design should work together to convince your visitors to convert into leads.
In this article, I’ll introduce some design principles that you need to master and how to apply these so you can create a landing page that converts.
Disclaimer: I DON’T have access to information about how well the landing pages I’m using as examples are actually converting, so treat them as simple illustrations of my points rather than absolute models or standards.
Encapsulation is a simple design technique wherein you frame a target object so that the viewer’s eye is drawn toward it.
In the photograph below, the yellow frame draws your eyes toward the white castle in the distance. It’s impossible to not look at it.
Encapsulation is also demonstrated in the landing page below. Notice how the lead capture form is inside a box, bringing the focus to the form at first glance.
It’s good to use this when you have plenty of other elements in your landing page. Encapsulating important parts of your landing page will ensure that your visitor looks past everything else and focuses on the elements inside the box or border.
Landing page design tip: Enclose your lead capture form in a simple box. You can experiment with using just a border to frame your lead capture form, or using a completely different colored box.
Using contrast is an effective way to make important elements in your page stand out. It automatically draws the eye toward that particular element.
This is apparent in the photograph below. It’s hard to tear your eyes away from the pink jellyfish against the blue background.
Color contrast is best applied to your CTA, since that is the ultimate goal of your landing page and what you want your visitor to accomplish. It’s important to note here that the actual color of the element doesn’t matter as much as how much it contrasts with its background. Thus, contrast is not absolute, it’s relative.
I’ll show you in the following examples how a similarly colored button (I’m using green) works differently in different backgrounds.
On the left, we have the Outskirts Press Landing Page, which uses a green button against a bluish-gray background. It’s a different color from the background, but it doesn’t really pop out of the page. On the right, Consulting.com uses a green button but against a stark white background. Your eyes are drawn toward the button because it just pops.
As a general rule, to get the best color contrast, look no further than your color wheel. The easy way to select your accent color is to select the color opposite the dominant color of your page or your background. In the case of the Outskirts Press landing page, they would have had a better contrast if they used an orange button.
There are various color pickers available on the internet that you can use to know the exact complement of the background color or dominant color of your landing page. My personal picks are W3Schools and HTML Color Codes.
At times, though, using complementary colors can have a jarring effect. Take this yellow button against a blue background.
It’s certainly contrasting, and effective in that your eyes are drawn toward it. However, the effect is jarring and might turn people off (might even give some of them a headache). Sometimes, you’ll want to use colors that are not necessarily opposite on the color wheel but still contrasting. This is where value contrast comes in.
The value of a color refers to its lightness or darkness in relation to white or black. The value of a color is what you tweak when you don’t want to use complementary colors that are too striking. Let me demonstrate this in the following example using the same background but a green button this time.
As you can see, it doesn’t contrast very much. But what we can do is to make the button color a bit lighter.
This one has a better contrast and is much easier on the eyes than the yellow button.
A good way to test your color combination is to convert the image to grayscale to see if the colors contrast and are still easy to see. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two images with different shades of green, with their grayscale versions below.
The ones on the right contrast well, but are still easy on the eyes. Thus, Outskirts Press could have still made the green button on a blue background work if they just tweaked the value contrast.
Landing page design tip: Use a single dominant color for your landing page and then make your CTA a contrasting color so it attracts attention.
Further reading: You can read more about color theory and picking contrasting colors in a previous article.
Directional cues are visual indicators that guide your visitors through your page, leading them to the final goal, i.e., your lead capture form and CTA. These cues ensure that your visitors see what you want them to see in the order you want them to be seen.
This sounds a bit complicated, so let me try to break it down for you.
Most people do not view web pages like they would read a book. It’s rarely left to right (or right to left for some languages), top to bottom. For landing pages that contain minimal copy, readers usually view them in a Z pattern, illustrated below.
Starting from the upper left corner, the reader does a quick scan across the top toward the upper right corner. Then, the reader looks left and down in a diagonal path toward the lower left corner. Finally, line of sight moves horizontally from left to right, ending in the lower right corner.
This is why the common landing page layout has the headline and subheadline across the top, benefits and/or hero image on the left, then the lead capture form at the right, which is the terminal point of the Z. An example of this is in the landing page by TheHOTH.co for their video course.
Of course, not all landing pages look like this, and yours doesn’t have to be. You can arrange the elements of your landing page however you want without confusing them. The key is for you to guide your readers’ eyes to where you want them to look at. Here are some ways you can do that.
Below is an example of how lines can hijack the natural tendency of your eyes.
The lines make your eyes go upward toward the top of the building. This goes against the usual way your eyes go, which is from top to bottom. Take a look at the landing page example below.
Notice the green arrow beside the subheadline, directing your eyes from the headline and subheadline toward the lead capture form on the right. Visitors then tend to look at the form instead of at the image on the left.
At the bottom of the page, there’s a blue arrowhead pointing downward, inviting visitors to scroll down for more information.
Landing Page Design Tip: Use arrows or more subtle lines or triangles to guide your visitors through the page.
We tend to look at faces first, then follow their gaze to see what they’re looking at. It could be curiosity or it could be an evolutionary behavior. Whatever it is, we follow eye direction without even thinking about it.
In this photo, we tend to look at the phone that the woman is holding, and then the coffee cup in the foreground. Take a look at the following example from Campaign Monitor’s landing page.
It looks like the duo are looking at their computer monitor, but following their gazes further leads us to look at the headline and then their CTAs (yes, they have two, but let’s ignore that for now).
This is a less subtle way to direct readers’ eyes to look at something and may look tacky because it’s just so obvious. But done right, this can be a powerful way to direct your visitors’ gazes.
You can’t help but look at what the woman is pointing to, but you’re more aware that you’re doing so, as opposed to subtly following the direction where someone is looking.
Landing Page Design Tip: Choose images of faces looking in the direction of your CTA over images of people pointing to it. Try to use attractive faces to prolong the time your visitors stay on your landing page.
Whitespace isn’t always white; the term refers to the blank space between page elements. This blank space keeps your landing page from looking too cluttered or unclear and helps highlight and draw attention to your landing page elements.
In the following photograph, notice how the expansive space around the subject serves to emphasize it; it’s impossible not to be drawn to the person.
Here are some ways you can use whitespace in your landing page.
Placing whitespace around the most important elements in your landing page reduces distraction and increases the clarity of the message. This is especially important for your CTA. An example of this is found in HubSpot’s landing page.
Notice how the appropriate amount of whitespace brings more attention to the CTA button, while not distancing itself too much from the subheadline text. This way, visitors notice the CTA because it stands out but is still relevant.
Landing Page Design Tip: Surrounding your lead capture form and CTA with adequate breathing space will help make them stand out on your landing page.
Copy that can’t be read is useless. This is where legibility comes in.
The little spaces between letters and between lines help your visitors have a more pleasant reading experience. You’ll see what I mean when you compare the two sets of text below.
Notice how much more cramped the text feels just by decreasing the spaces between the letters by 1 point. The same cramped feeling can be observed when manipulating line space.
Displaying cramped text on your landing page will make your visitors more likely to skip away from your landing page.
Landing Page Design Tip: Add the right amount of whitespace in your text to help it become more readable.
Whitespace provides visual cues as to how page elements are grouped. When you surround multiple elements with whitespace, it signifies that these elements are grouped together. By contrast, whitespace between elements signifies that these elements are distinct. An example of how this works is demonstrated below in the landing page for Industrial Strength Marketing (ISM).
Notice how the lead capture form is well-separated from the headline and subheadline, allowing your brain to process the headline and subheadline separately from the lead capture form.
Landing Page Design Tip: Use whitespace to create distinctions between groups of your landing page elements.
In a sense, whitespace can serve as a directional cue in that you can use it to guide readers’ eyes toward the elements you want them to see. For example, consider this landing page from Playbuzz.
The blank space on both the left and right sides guides readers’ eyes to the middle, going against the conventional Z-pattern of perusing a landing page. The whitespace forces readers to start going through the page from the middle and then down.
This isn’t technically a landing page; this is actually a homepage. But this is an extreme example of whitespace above and below a page element being able to force your eyes toward the middle row instead of following the usual Z-pattern. Your eyes are drawn toward the center instead of focusing on the logo on the top left, even if it’s more colorful.
Landing Page Design Tip: Wide margins force your readers’ attention toward the center column. Similarly, wide leading and trailing spaces force your readers’ attention toward the middle row.
I’ve previously discussed images and video in landing pages, but let me delve a little more. Here are some ways you can use images in your landing page.
Food photography is an industry by itself, and that’s because there’s no better way to sell a food item than to show a picture of it. You can write about how you use 100% beef patties in your burgers for the tastiest, juiciest burger ever. Or, you can show people this:
Perhaps the most practical use of an image in your landing page is to show a photo or a graphical representation of your lead magnet. Visitors take one look and think, “Okay, I’m being offered a free ebook.” WordStream does this well in their landing page.
First off, the cover doesn’t have complicated graphics; just a generic logo plus WordStream’s branding. But showing a thick, hardbound book subconsciously conveys the message that this ebook contains a lot of valuable information. The image could be a little larger, but it’s effective even in its current form.
Landing Page Design Tip: Have a professional graphic designer create your hero image if you don’t have a physical product. Professional graphics go a long way in impressing your visitors.
Numerous marketing studies have found that images are more powerful than words when it comes to eliciting emotional responses. Bear this in mind when you select images for your landing page. For instance, this soda ad aims to make you thirsty for a cold one:
Similarly, you can use images in your landing page to get an emotional response. Consider the following landing page by Tableau.
Tableau used an image of a smiling, relaxed person not to draw attention to their CTA, but to portray a satisfied customer. The photo seems to say “Get our free whitepaper and be as satisfied as this guy.” Bonus points for the smaller photograph of a literal whitepaper below the words “Free Whitepaper,” which helps readers visualize what they’re getting. See another example from SalesX below.
SalesX went with a smiling woman on their landing page, but instead of a customer, she portrays an affable, yet professional consultant. The picture seems to say “Get our free consultation and talk to a friendly, trustworthy consultant just like her.”
Plus, she’s wearing blue, which suggests stability and trust according to color psychology.
Landing Page Design Tip: When choosing or conceptualizing which image to use in your landing page, consider the emotion you want to evoke from your visitors. In addition, use photos of people for maximum emotional impact.
On the scale of beautiful things, bath soap has got to be on the lower end. But look at what Lux did with their ad:
The images they used made their soap look pretty. Plus, showing a photo of a gorgeous model seems to say “Use our pretty soap and be as beautiful as her.” This says a lot about their target audience, which is probably adult women who want to experience luxury in their bathrooms but are on a budget.
The following landing page by KlientBoost speaks to their target audience as well.
KlientBoost’s landing page showcases their ebook cover using adorable, humorous visuals that evoke Sunday comic strips. You can see more of these fun, quirky graphics in their homepage. This says volumes about their target audience, as not everyone will be attracted to their casual vibe.
Landing Page Design Tip: Ensure that the image you use is not only functional but visually appealing to your target audience as well.
Outbrain’s landing page allows you to play a video to see how Outbrain works. At less than 2 minutes, the video length is just right for a demonstration but not long enough to tire the viewer.
Consulting.com went with a video to explain what is included in their webinar. The video does a good job in introducing Sam Ovens to the visitor, eliciting empathy and inspiring them.
Instead of a background image, Lander has a background video of someone drawing a wireframe by hand. Of course, their templates aren’t actually drawn by hand, but it’s a way of saying that their templates are designed by real people. It’s on loop, but it’s not high-resolution and it doesn’t have audio, so it doesn’t affect loading that much and more importantly, doesn’t take the visitor by surprise.
Landing Page Design Tip: Keep it relevant, keep it short (less than two minutes), and don’t use autoplay. Let your visitor decide if they want to play the video or not, especially if it has audio.
Typography is often overlooked or relegated as an afterthought when designing a landing page. And why not? It’s been ingrained in us that it’s what we say that matters, rather than how it looks like. But typography is a detail that can make a huge difference in how your reader consumes your copy.
The primary objective of typography is to relay your message effectively by making it readable. However, it also affects the first impression your visitors form about your landing page. Here are some ways to use typography effectively.
There is a reason why headlines generally have the largest font in your entire landing page; this is the piece of copy you want your readers to read first. After your headline, you have the subheadline and then the rest of your copy in progressively decreasing fonts.
In the following example, notice how you can’t help but read the headline first, even though it’s in the middle of the ad.
The same effect can be observed in IMPACT’s landing page below. Your eyes automatically go to the headline even though there’s text above it.
Case styles can also affect how important a text element is regarded. Case style refers to whether letters are in uppercase, lowercase, or a mix of both. Headlines and CTAs normally use title case (“First Letter Of All Words In Uppercase”) or all caps (“EVERYTHING CAPITALIZED”), and body text normally uses sentence case (“First word of the sentence is capitalized.”). This technique has been used in magazine covers for decades.
The blocks of text in all caps are the ones you are drawn to first: the name of the celebrity, then the subheadline about her, then the feature on the upper right. Lastly, the least important elements on the cover are in title case.
The same can be observed in the following landing page for Drop Ship Lifestyle.
The headline is in title case, except for the word “FREE,” which is in all caps for emphasis. The CTA is in all caps, which draws your eyes to it. All the benefits are in sentence case, except for words that are in all caps for emphasis, such as “BEST,” “PLUS,” and “BONUS.”
Font weight is another characteristic of a font that influences how significant an element is perceived. This can be observed in the following ad for cigarettes.
The brand name of the cigarette is in boldface, drawing the readers’ eyes to it even though it’s the same font style as the rest of the copy.
The following landing page demonstrates how font size, case styles, and font weight work together.
The headline has the largest font size, with the word “TOOLKIT” as the largest word for emphasis. The next largest is the subheadline, followed by the benefits, followed by the form field labels and CTA. The headline and CTA are in all caps, being the most important elements of the page. The sentence after the subheadline is in boldface, accenting the question that the toolkit answers. The form field labels are also in boldface instead of a bigger size so that they catch attention without cramping the form field boxes.
Landing Page Design Tip: Larger, uppercase, and more “weighty” fonts catch attention. Use them strategically to draw your visitors’ eyes to the most important words in your copy.
A discussion of typography and readability wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the serif versus sans serif debate. Serif fonts (e.g., Times New Roman, Georgia) have serifs, which are the little extenders hanging off the edge of each stroke, while sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Helvetica), as implied by their name, don’t have those extenders. A comparison of a serif font (Times New Roman) and a sans serif font (Calibri) is shown below.
The general consensus is that serif fonts are best for print and sans serif fonts are best for reading on the web. However, serif fonts can still work on webpages. Consider the following landing page.
Notice that the headline is in a serif font, while the rest of the elements are in a sans serif font. The headline is readable even in a serif font. Of course, its contrast from the background and its large font size help readability as well, but this is an example of how a serif font can still work in a webpage.
Landing Page Design Tip: Sans serif fonts are generally more readable on the web, but this doesn’t mean you should shun serif fonts. They can be effective as well, especially on headlines. Explore different fonts and even combinations of serif and sans serif fonts.
Your font type choice can have an impact on the personality you convey to your readers. It matters on your blog, but it matters even more on your landing page. Why? Because you only have seconds to convince your visitors to stay and convert. Below is an infographic about the psychology of type. It was originally meant for logo design, but the concept applies to landing page design as well.
Almost all the landing page examples that I included in this article have sans serif fonts, but I’m sure there are landing pages out there that use serif fonts or even display fonts.
Landing Page Design Tip: Bear in mind that different fonts impact your information in different ways. Find the font style that creates the right perception.
We’ve just gone through a lot of design principles and numerous tips on how to apply them. Here are some more tips that can help you improve your landing page design.
When your visitors encounter your landing page, you’ll want to keep them there until they convert. That means they either fill out your lead capture form and click on your CTA, or they close your page. There should be no in-between.
This means there shouldn’t be any other outbound links, such as social media share buttons or the navigation menu bar. The only exception to this is if you have a longform landing page, in which case you may have to have more than one lead capture form and CTA. However, they don’t really count, as they would all lead to the same ultimate action but made more accessible.
You can always bring back the social media share buttons and navigation links on your Thank You page or confirmation page when your visitors complete the action.
It’s tempting to place all the visual elements you can in your landing page. However, if you’re not careful, these design elements can slow down your page loading time, and a slow-loading landing page is never good, especially for visitors who’ll be seeing your landing page for the first time. Compress your images. If you’re using web fonts, compress those, too.
It’s easy to forget about this, but you need to remind your visitors about who is making this fantastic offer and who’s asking them for their information: YOU. If you have a logo, place it somewhere prominent. If not, you can go with your blog name instead. However you do it, remind your visitors about YOU. This is especially important if your visitor came from a social media share or any other external source.
When you’re just starting out, stock photos are admittedly very useful. But as you go farther and become more established in your niche, continuing to use stock photos with models give the impression that you can’t be bothered to give a little more effort to creating your landing page.
Your visitors can generally tell the difference between a stock photo used everywhere else on the internet and photos of everyday people. This may be the time to experiment with taking your own digital photos. Or if you find that you don’t have the talent for taking decent photos, take a course! Photography isn’t just useful for blogging; it’s a life skill. If you’re still not confident, hire a professional for those really crucial ones.
Exceptions to this would be graphical representations of digital products. If you’re not a graphic designer, better to leave that work to professionals. Otherwise, if your offer is a tangible, physical product, try to take the photo yourself.
Note: If you absolutely must use a stock photo, don’t use photos with this overexposed model. If you spend a significant time on the internet, chances are you’ve seen her. She’s so popular that advertisements featuring her stock photos have their own Facebook fan page. It’s funny, but it says a lot about how dependent advertisers have become on stock photos.
To recap, here are the landing page design principles I talked about:
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of some basic design principles and how applying these principles to your landing page can help you increase your conversions. Before you go and tweak your landing page, I just have a few more things for you to remember.
Just casually browsing the internet on how to create a landing page will turn up numerous articles on “landing page best practices.” I even cover some of them right here on these articles. However, even best practices can fail you.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I still think these practices are built on solid foundations of research and experimentation, and have worked for marketers through the years. But remember, every landing page has a different offer, has a different goal, and addresses a different niche. What can work for a group of people may not work for another.
It’s your job to take these design elements and experiment with them to give you the best version of your landing page.
What can happen in 5 seconds?
An average user can read two lines of text (probably your headline and subheadline), quickly glance at your visuals, and… that’s pretty much it.
You have 5 seconds to capture the attention of a new visitor and make them think, “Hmm. Interesting. I want to know more.”
Have this mindset when you’re designing your landing page so you can focus on what you want your visitors to take away in those 5 precious seconds.
It’s not only your copy that you need to test, you need to test your landing page design, too.
As I’ve said, there isn’t a single, standard way to do it. Let your visitors decide what works best for them. Testing and validating your hypotheses continually is how you know that a particular design works.
You’ll need to test your elements one at a time. For instance, if you want to know if changing up your hero image will increase conversion, test that and nothing else. Doing it this way ensures that whatever you changed is what made a difference in your conversion rates.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of overdesigning your landing page. It can be very tempting to place an explainer video on there, use the hottest web font from Google Fonts or Font Squirrel, and design a CTA that has a nifty 3D effect. Avoid this trap by always reminding yourself of your ultimate goal, which is to convince your visitors to convert.
Whenever you want to add something, always ask yourself “Does this help my visitor? How?” If you can’t answer the “how,” it’s likely a waste of your time.
Remember: The best landing page design is the landing page design that converts.
Have you started designing your landing page? Were any of my landing page design tips helpful to you? Tell me in the comments below!