3-5 Seconds and The Decision is Made!
3-5 seconds and The Decision is Made!
I hope the title to this week’s blog has caught your attention. In truth, I hope everything — or at least SOMETHING — on the BeareWare home page catches your attention.
The reality is that, in the wonderful world of websites, the behavior of web visitors is becoming much clearer. Their behavior is becoming more and more discriminating. A visitor will go to your website, and either your site will have “The LOOK” or it won’t – and that visitor will make his or her assessment. If you haven’t captured the visitor’s interest almost instantaneously, he/she might immediately leave your website, potentially establishing an association in his or her mind between your company and your website, based on what they saw in only a few seconds.
Wow – this seems to be very brutal behavior by web visitors.
Actually, it isn’t brutal as much as it is human nature. And we as humans are becoming more educated on what is a good website and what is not – so, really, in a world in which time is so important, multi-media is dominant, and there are so many other choices – deciding whether you like a website quickly actually makes sense. I have to admit: every website I go to gets the “Thumbs Up” – or “Thumbs Down” assessment. Of course, developing websites for a living makes me overly critical, but the feeling is undeniable and immediate, and that feeling tends to extend to the organization that owns the website.
So if they don’t like the “LOOK” of the website, they just LEAVE?
Well, it actually isn’t that black and white. But, firstly, the look of the website will get a response from the web visitor – “I like the website or I don’t”. The way the website is designed visually is the bottom line. And the feeling the visitor establishes in his or her mind will probably stick. If you are a small business and the web visitor doesn’t know you, then maybe your website has helped them make a decision to consider using your services (or to not use your services!) in the future.
Based on website statistics for our clients at BeareWare (presented when we do our annual client website reviews), around 50% of all web visitors come and leave the website within 30 seconds. Now this of course includes unique first time visitors and repeat visitors. So if a web visitor doesn’t particularly like the look of your site, they might hang around and look for the items they are interested in – and if they find them (quickly) they may continue the visit or at least decide the website has information that can be revisited in the future. It is definitely clear that within 30 seconds, your future relationship with this web visitor is established one way or another.
Doesn’t functionality and content on the website count?
Sure it does – but if your visual representation of your site is not “up to par”, then the web visitor may never get to see or experience your functionality or your great content. Websites today are leading people by images (more so than text) to content, action items, and functionality – with design imagery establishing brand, themes, and the targeted aims of the website. It is through this visual design that all paths now lead.
With respect to many hard working folks – in particular small business owners who have spent a lot time developing and managing their websites – 3-5 years ago “Content Was King”. And it was text content in particular that would keep visitors on your website. Loading of images was slow – of course, there were webmasters who helped perpetuate the value of content versus images with the classical “Website Loading – Standby – Nearly Ready to Launch – OK… Here we go & the grand finale – SKIP INTRO” which may have become the most clicked link in website history. A lot of people were still using a dial-up connection, and Flash start ups showing on the home page was really the graphical look of the time – but lost its effectiveness rather quickly.
The times have changed and so have the players!
Let’s agree that there were (and are) many good sites, which had really good content, though the images on the site were small and conservative at best. The web today is not that same place! The web is now a multi-media environment – we watch movies on our laptops – and we expect to see the same quality on our PC’s that we see on our televisions. Professional, attention-grabbing graphics are now a must.
In conjunction with visual design importance comes the connection of our first generation webmasters (mostly computer programmers and tech folks) versus more graphics-oriented web designers. These separate disciplines have become very clear and obvious to me. I see lots of goods websites (technically strong, programmed sites) that just don’t have any visual “Va Voom”. Generally you can bet the webmaster is more of a programming/tech “type” without much if any input from a designing/graphic “type”. And to be frank, you actually need both.
For a website development company to be successful today, it must have a good graphics person. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how many great programmers you have on staff – you have to have the person(s) who produces the “LOOK”. With respect to many of my programming colleagues (as I too was once a computer programmer), this is where I see many small web company start-ups actually closing shop – or migrating into other areas of the Internet (such as application development) versus web design. The skill set requirement to develop websites today is absolutely multifaceted. This is also why I am not a big fan of “web builders” (the do-it-yourself web design templates readily available on the Internet). These basically hand the “design” aspect to the client – generally the client has absolutely no experience in design at all – so the chances of producing a visually appealing website are very low.
OK – It’s the LOOK – but what about my customers – they still use my website!
Correct. And they most likely will continue to use your website. They are already committed to you as a client. When you consider your website you really have two types of visitors – those who know you (your existing customers) and those who don’t. The “LOOK” and the 3-5 second decision making process is about a potential customer – some one that doesn’t know you. Whether he or she has been referred to your company, saw or heard an ad that listed your site’s web address, or found you on a search engine, this first-time visitor is the one you most want to impress.
For every website BeareWare develops, we have these focuses to consider: what we expect the first time visitor to experience, and what outcomes we want from that visit. Then we focus on functionality and services for visitors who are repeat visitors and existing customers. And don’t get me wrong – functionality and content for your website are paramount – you must provide superb services in order to retain customers, and this goes for web customers, too. Great looking websites with poor functionality won’t retain visitors and will make for very dissatisfied clients.
In summary, I hope this blog has given you a little insight and food for thought into the behavior of web visitors. Now that I have your attention, it would be a great time to go to your company’s website and visit it through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. What impression will they get? And what impression will they leave with? If you find that the impression is not reflective of who you are (or who you want to be) – then maybe it’s time to call a good web design company and change the winning odds back into your favor.
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included strategic website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still primarily a webmaster. And this is “Interview with a Webmaster.”