6 Elements Your Website Needs to Display in the First 7 Seconds

CNN.com gets high marks in creating a great first impression on consumers, according to FRWD.

Cheddar. Manchego. Havarti. Gouda. Unless a website is selling dairy products, “cheesy” is not the first adjective marketers should want springing to consumers’ minds, says Tim Ash, CEO of San Diego-based online conversion rate optimization firm SiteTuners.

Ash, author of “Landing Page Optimization,” says marketers need the word “professional” to pop into viewers’ heads within the first 1/20th of a second of landing on a page.

That’s right: 1/20th of a second.

“If this first impression is poor, conversion will suffer,” Ash says. “People will often immediately leave (‘bounce’) from a site that is perceived as ‘cheesy’ or unprofessional.”

What do consumers need to see on a website within seven seconds in order to continue to conversion, we asked for advice from Ash and:

  • Neil Olinger, associate media director at Minneapolis-based digital marketing firm FRWD; and
  • Aaron Sperling, CEO San Francisco-based online marketing product and service provider vFlyer.

1. Keep the site design clean and professional. This is the most important element, considering consumers’ first impressions happen in 1/20th of a second, Ash says.

Have a goal in mind when designing the site and make the call to action, or what the visitor is expected to do, readily apparent, Ash says. To that end, avoid clutter. Get rid of “banner ads, wild background colors, giant graphical billboards taking up prime page real estate, garish text treatments in headlines and buttons, visual embellishments and flourishes on unimportant parts of the page and unnecessary animation or video.”

2. After establishing professionalism, establish trust and credibility. Ash says, “We must believe that the website is trustworthy in order to consume its message in the most favorable light.”

Sites can be trustworthy on their own through “transactional trust” options, such as payment methods, guarantees and consumer protection, he says. Or, third-party validation can offer that reassurance through customer logos, media mentions or association memberships. But Ash suggests marketers should, “keep them de-emphasized [through use of] grayscale, low contrast.”

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

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  • Steve

    Excellent advice and samples….thanks so much for the help!

  • Eric Siu ✓

    Great post! The one question I always make sure to ask myself when evaluating a site is "Would I feel comfortable entering my credit card on this site?" – that question speaks volumes when determining the trustworthiness of a site. Cheers!

  • HeatherReporter

    Glad it helped! @Eric : Good advice from you, too!