6 Elements Your Website Needs to Display in the First 7 Seconds
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."
Keeping site content up to date is key here, according to Sperling.
3. Moving on to a less quantifiable science, establish an emotional connection with visitors—convey a personality, Sperling says.
He continues: "People need to like your site first (and not necessarily in the Facebook 'Like' sense) if they're going to become your customers. Give them an understanding of what your business is all about in an easily digestible way. The tone could be goofy, sincere, ironic, inspiring … whatever you want it to be and think will spark your target audience's interest."
4. Support proper navigation, Ash says, meaning "During the first few seconds, visitors must be able to get a clear 'map of the world' that allows them to understand the available options and to find the 'information scent' to follow deeper into the site. A few distinct and mutually exclusive choices should be presented on the page."
5. Consider following a tested and true formula. Olinger suggests, "In our experience, the most important homepage features include:
- Brand logo—Distinguished from all other content [and] matches the offline branding;
- 'Hero'—Show consumers the most popular product or content in a prominent position;
- Clearly organized content—Make it easy for consumers to quickly scan the page;
- Simple navigation categories—Clearly identify where each link goes;
- Search—[Put it in a] prominent location, typically in the top right corner;
- 'Featured' [items]—Products or content that are popular for a wide audience; [and]
- [A] message—Clear calls to action."
6. Don't be annoying. Sperling warns that, "There are three simple things that visitors to your website should be able to immediately find (and can't on a surprisingly large number of websites):
- The name of your business;
- What you do; [and]
- How to contact you."