How One Website’s Poor Usability Is Killing Their Copy (and Stopped Me Getting A Quote)

usability kills copy and conversions

The other day I was searching online for a cleaning company in my local area….

…I clicked on the first search engine result and immediately liked what I saw.

The website was easy to read, easy to navigate and the copy was good.

It was so easy I requested a quote. There was a large ‘click for quote’ button at my eye level just waiting for me to click.

But I didn’t stop there.

I wanted another quote. I clicked on another search engine result and this time I wasn’t so thrilled with what I found.

First, I was immediately hit with a large block of text, a long paragraph that should have been broken into three sentences and copy that was so dry it read like a corporate brochure.

But it wasn’t the copy that frustrated me. What frustrated me most was I couldn’t find any button or link to click for a quote.

I eventually found a contact form and I was forced to type information into an empty square box.

As a rule, people don’t like to puzzle over how to do things. If people who build a site don’t care enough to make things obvious and easy for the person using the site, it can diminish confidence in the site, the company and its owners.

Today I want to share with you how poor usability can kill your copy and sales and how to overcome this with simple, easy-to-implement advice for pulling visitors into your funnel.

Not only can this help you to convert more leads into sales for your business, you’ll be leading your website visitors down the yellow brick road to take whatever action you want them too….EFFORTLESSLY.

To get started, let’s delve into some interesting research that shows you how much impact usability has on sales.

 If Users Can’t Buy, You Don’t Make Money

…says usability guru Jakob Nielsen.

How much impact does usability have on sales? Jakob’s team conducted a study and watched users make 496 attempts at performing tasks on e-commerce sites. The test spanned 20 sites based in the U.S., focusing on large sites but including a few smaller ones as well. On average, the user success rate was 56%.

E-commerce sites lose almost half of their potential sales because users cannot use the site. In other words, with better usability, the average site could increase its current sales by 79% (calculated as the 44% of potential sales relative to the 56% of cases in which users currently succeed).

So What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It means you’re far more likely to get business.

Let’s clear something up here. Even if you aren’t selling things like retail products online, e-commerce is still a vital part of your website. Whether you offer service packages, coaching or consulting or you want people to sign up to your newsletter or email list, it’s all about getting your visitor to ACT immediately.

The first website I clicked on made it easy for me. It didn’t require me to think. It had options laid out for me…

…And when a website has options for us to choose from, it’s like someone is holding our hand and guiding us through a maze without having to figure out how things work.

In other words, the first website was a no-brainer. They are making it incredibly easy for their visitors to do business with them.

How One Company’s Poor Website Usability Stopped Me In My Tracks

The real truth is…the second website literally STOPPED me using their website. It does not matter whether the company offers  excellent service, is a reputable company or even provides a superior service compared to the first website, the fact is I’m never going to find out.

It didn’t provide me the opportunity to do business with them and I left.

Instead of a request quote page, the only way to contact the company was through a blank contact form and explain what type of cleaning I required, my budget, whether they could do a particular custom job and my location.

It wasn’t like I didn’t know what I wanted. I did, but that’s not the point.

I had to go searching for a way to contact the company. And I’d hoped I entered enough information for the cleaning company to act on because they didn’t ASK me what they needed to know.

One Example Of Excellent Web Usability

Below are the options the first cleaning website provided that I was easily able to choose from:

User friendly website optionsAnd this:


Great example of a quote request page

See what they’re doing here? You’re not forced to type information yourself. They give you the options and the quote is completed in less than 60 seconds.

Super easy!

Now compare that to the second cleaning website who only provided an empty comment box (after I had to go searching for it).


Comment formThe form should have at least stated what type of information they wanted me to enter. Instead I was responsible for explaining my requirements and preferences.

As Website Owners, We Don’t Always Think Like Our Visitors.

What might seem obvious to us can stop our potential customers in their tracks. The second cleaning company’s empty square box might seem to them to be an obvious way for their visitors to contact the company. However, it would have been far smarter to set up a form and ask a few questions so the visitor just has to click a few buttons.

What the second website failed to do was to effectively communicate to keep the buying cycle moving forward.

In other words, even if they had the most compelling web copy that led us down the slippery slide to an offer, sale (or quote in this instance), it didn’t matter. It would have all but gone to waste.

There’s no point in writing beautiful copy that makes you whip out your credit card if you’re only to going to prevent any ability for your visitors to continue going forward after they’ve read it.

US copywriter Karon Thackston of Marketing Words Copywriting Agency had a similar experience.

Karon visited a website that offered custom-designed gift bags. She said the copy seemed self-explanatory until she got to the request for quote page.

She found a form that asked questions she wasn’t expecting. She was supposed to explain her preference of fabric color and a description of any accessories that should be added to the bag. She had no idea how to answer.

Karon says many site owners would assume it’s the fault of the copywriting not doing its job. Not true. In this case, low conversions would be an error in the sales process – not setting up a functional page for visitors to request a quote.

How Can You Improve Your Website Usability To Pull More Visitors Into Your Sales Funnel?

If you have a website where people need to ask for a quote for a service or product you offer then provide one.

But make sure you give your visitor options to choose from. Don’t expect people to be willing to type information into an empty square box or form. Most people don’t want to think about what they want and actually sit there and type it.

Truth be told, they can’t be bothered.

As the website owner, make sure you do the thinking for them. Like the example I showed you above, think of the questions that visitors will ask.

Then set it up as a functional form where your visitors only need to click a few buttons to submit a quote, not type in a whole paragraph of information.

One final tip. Ditch the default “submit” text.

Instead of having your web form’s submit button say “Submit,” have it remind the user what it is they’re doing. In our example, say “request a quote.”

If you’re still not sure about how to improve the usability of a web form, read this awesome post written on Six Revisions on 10 Tips for Optimizing Web Form Submission Usability.

Remember, you need to make your website easy and convenient for your visitors to use.

Like writing good copy, it’s about them, not you.

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  1. This was such a great post! I especially love the tip at the bottom of changing “Submit” to “Request a Quote”! Great tips and I’ll definitely be incorporating what you’ve mentioned!

  2. I just reread this post and still think it is great, Shae, and carries such an important message for anyone running a website (ok, maybe not so important if it is a personal blog or for family photos, but generally speaking…)

    I would just add that any form needs to have considered compulsory fields. That is, only make questions compulsory if they need to be rather than to collect information. To follow on from the example above, maybe I want my office cleaned so number of bedrooms is not relevant and thus would be hard to complete the form as it is a required field.


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