A study I recently read stated that an average person only gives a website 10 seconds before deciding if a site is worth their time, which means you have less than ten seconds to: attract the viewer, declare your message, and get them to take action.
With so much noise on the web today, and the natural ADD nature of most web surfers, your worst enemy is the browser back button. After someone lands on your website from a search engine, status update, marketing promotion, Tweet, or email link, you have a very short window of opportunity to keep them on your site, so let’s cover each step.
Attract the Viewer
If your site looks unprofessional, is difficult to navigate, has boring cookie-cutter content, or has an overall harsh feel to it, your visitor will probably hit the Back button before the page finished loading. This is where good design matters.
Good design for business websites is about designing for your target market, not your peers, other designers, or your competitors. Good website design is also about is making sure the user can find the information they want quickly and easily. And it definitely helps if your website isn’t ugly and doesn’t look like your “friend’s husband who is good with computers” built it for you.
Declare Your Message
There are numerous small factors in this statement that all add up to a lot when trying to make a first impression with your website in under 10 seconds. If you are using a free hosted web design program and your site sits on a URL with anything other than your domain name in it, you are silently declaring.
- I don’t take my business seriously.
- Not enough people actually hire me, so I can’t afford a self hosted site.
- I have no idea what I am doing, nor do I know who to ask for help.
The same goes for your domain name selection. In the US, a business should use a .com extension, and not a .net, .biz, .tv, or any other extension. The only exception would be for a non-profit to use a .org. Regularly our clients say to us, “But the .com of my business name is taken and I have already registered my business license.” To solve this we suggest using a domain name that declares the solution you provide.
Also, your domain name should be easy to remember and easy to spell with common terminology. Avoid using numbers in place of words and avoid using hyphens. Think about verbally telling someone your domain name. Will you say “Just go to GardeningFunForYou.com” or will you have to say something like, “Just go to Gardening dash Fun for, that’s the number four not the word, You with you spelled out.”
In web design, there is the term, above the fold, that has historic roots to the newspaper industry. After years of study, publishers and editors found that by putting the most important and compelling headlines, stories, and photos “above the fold” of the newspaper so they were the most visible in the racks and stands, they sold more papers. The same holds true for web design. Your most compelling content, calls to action, etc. should try to remain “above the fold”. In web design, this is what is visible in a browser window without having to scroll down the page. Most studies suggest that a height of 768 pixels is what most browser windows are set to.
When designing your website or creating your content, you need to put your most important items above the fold. We usually include:
- Business name, Logo and/or Photo, Tag Line
- Primary Navigation
- Email Marketing Opt-In Offer
- Calls to Action or Primary Headlines
When someone lands on your site, and the most important information about your business is above the fold, your visitor can absorb everything quickly and determine that your site is exactly what they are looking for.
Get Them to Take Action
Now this doesn’t mean that you are trying to get someone to buy something or opt-in under ten seconds. “Taking Action” can be as little as scrolling down the page and reading all of your content or clicking on a button or link to learn more. Well written headlines that answer a question that your visitor has, along with important info in the first few sentences, is usually enough to keep someone on your page, especially if this content is visible above the fold.
Avoid pop-up windows, videos or audio messages that automatically start, or too much advertising. Your business website’s sole focus is your target market and serving them to the absolute best of your ability. It should focus on providing useful, valuable information quickly.
- Your content must be easy to find, well organized, clear, and reachable by two to three clicks of the mouse or less to reach it.
- Your design must help reinforce and enhance your brand, position you as an expert, and build your credibility.
- Your back end must integrate automation tools that make your job easier, make the visitors’ experience better, and streamline your processes.
- Your goal is to create a synergy between the overall site, the design, and the content that helps create chemistry with your visitors so they keep coming back.