Blog > The Data We Used to Redesign Our Website
Four ways data shaped this design, and the one time we chose to ignore advice
You’re a financial-services B2B company. Does the UX of your website even matter?
Certainly, your website isn’t pushing anyone to buy with a click. Nor is it trying to sell ads using inflated engagement data. Then again, companies may not be pushing clients to buy on a website, but they’d still quite like them to buy.
Client trust links tightly to B2B sales. “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” was something people used to say in the ’80s. IBM may have lost its cache, but corporate angst is still a thing.
Of course, all sorts can help win client trust. Longevity is great; we’ve had Goldman Sachs roughly as long as the bicycle! Being wildly successful, like Buffet or Bezos, is also pretty helpful.
Even without such renown, one other tactic can work. You can convert information into trust. For example by:
The one catch: these actions all assume clients take in information. Good UX is there to ensure that, however short their stay, visitors walk away with trust.
Multiple studies, including eye-tracking experiments, have shown users consume digital content in predictable patterns. It’s better to design messaging with such patterns in mind.
In redesigning the entire FinText website, we’ve given extra weight to data-led evidence on the DNA of pleasant UX experiences.
Since many of our investment-management clients also periodically revamp their websites, we thought we’d walk through some of the key points considered.
The Nielsen-Norman Group (NN/g), a UX research and consulting firm, found the most common reading behaviour users exhibit is the F-shaped pattern. (Follow-up studies confirmed these findings.)
English is read from left to right; attention follows the gaze, but rarely makes it all the way to the end. Pegging key information to the left increases its odds of being taken in.
Of course, it’s not all text. What about images?
NN/g also found zigzag image–text layouts (all the rage these days) make scanning less efficient. And they say:
Zigzag layouts made it more difficult to ignore decorative imagery and caused users to stumble over these unhelpful images and immediately redirect their fixations.
Don’t use imagery for the sake of the layout (and) always position high-information content on the left side of the first row.
With our new website, we chose to feature the most important messages to the left, with images to the right.
Humans seem naturally wired to take information in groups of three. Therefore, webpages are often written with trios of information. This information is then typically laid out in columns.
Equally, because designers work on a grid system that splits a screen into twelve, three columns is a nice-looking way to partition space.
Alas, digital readers consume information sequentially along the downward scroll. Information presented in three adjacent blocks isn’t going to sink much further than “Huh, three things”.
We found it’s harder to lay out content trios sequentially, and requires some added creative thinking.
That said, having readers default into thinking “lots” can also be a positive. We used three columns in places where, even if users spend little time dwelling, they’re left with the impression of plurality.
Social media companies love the infinite scroll because it gets users to stay longer than they might otherwise choose. But corporate websites often use it for technical reasons that have nothing to do with user experience.
With pagination, there is a beginning and an end. People can anticipate the effort required to scan the page. There is a happy sense of completion when a page is reviewed. Pagination gives people control to decide whether or not to continue to the next page. The choices on smaller pages are easier to evaluate because fewer options feel less overwhelming.
Something this simple offers users a better experience? Of course we’ll use it.
Chartbeat, a media analytics company, analysed billions of monthly page views across dozens of media outlets, spanning a period of three years.
For starters, they found the biggest source of traffic – 41 percent! – comes from users who are already on site. The same study revealed returning visitors spend less time on each page but view more pages.
So we asked ourselves a simple question: where would visitors return to?
We added “Discover More” widgets not just to our blogs and case studies, but also on Gist, where readers who come for article snapshots, might be tempted to explore some recent insights.
In a world full of click-bait, longer headlines are better at setting reader expectations, and therefore better at building user trust.
The average headline for a financial news article is 12-14 words long. By contrast, FinText data shows investment managers’ article titles tend to hover at 8 words or less.
But there’s a trade-off. For any fixed width, the bigger the font, the fewer the words that can fit it. You can absolutely design for longer headlines – but they’ll fail to stand out.
We chose a compromise. Taking inspiration from the likes of the New York Times and Substack, we agreed on a format of a shorter title, immediately followed by a longer description.
In theory, starting from a blank slate sounds amazing. In practice, freedom leaves too much room for terrible design.
Remember, your future website isn’t just about looking good – it’s trying to achieve a very specific goal, of building trust with an audience. Before you start the design, take the following into account:
1. Who are your clients? What makes them feel secure?
2. What’s your message? Most of the copy won’t get read. Be clear on what matters.
3. Which trust devices? Each content component is a lever with a goal.
Above all, sense check design by having your team closely monitor their behavior around the new design. Left to their own devices, where do they look? What are they naturally inclined to skip?
Data-led design is human centered, in that it doesn’t fight against ingrained patterns, but accommodates them. For companies, it’s a way of showing clients they care.