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8 Seconds Rule – Making your web site stickier

What is the 8 seconds rule?

The 8 seconds rule is the length of time you have to convince a visitor to stay on your site. This length of time was based on the fact the most sites lose 50% or more of their visitors within the first 8 seconds of them coming to the site. Eight seconds may not seem like a long time but for those surfing the web it is all they need to make a decision about the value of your site. The rule applies to first time visitors who are unfamiliar with your web site. It is all about creating the best first impression that encourages people to stay.

What are the exceptions to the rule?

This 8 seconds rule does not apply in every circumstance. Common exceptions are returning visitors and those who are surfing to find you. Some sites can avoid the rule because people are interested in that specific site. For example even though many government sites are poorly designed, we are forced to use the sites to find government information or pay tax bills, etc. The exceptions apply to very few so it best to learn how to make your site stickier and prevent people from pressing the back button.

How to make a web site stickier?

4 Simple things to remember
1) Load Time
2) Define your purpose
3) Navigation and layout
4) Give a reason to come back

Load Time
One of the biggest issues facing web sites is load time. The eight seconds you have to convince visitors to stay includes how long it takes to load your site. Sites that use lots of script or are heavy on images will fail to be sticky. This doesn’t mean that you need to strip your site of images. A good designer should save all images for web to make file sizes small. Also a good designer can keep the code used on the site clean so that it can load fast. Use W3C validation to check your code to see if it is compliant.

Define your purpose
One of my biggest pet peeves is to visit a site and having to actually figure out what they are all about. I had one client who owned a web design company and their business site never used the keyword “web design”. They used words like imagination, innovative, integrated design but their site never made it clear to the visitor what it was they do. I come from the belief that people’s IQs drop considerably when they are surfing. To compensate for this you need to make your message intensely obvious. I like using big bold letters across the top of every page saying SEO Guru or Web Marketing. You need to do this on every page because you never know which page people will enter your site. Images can help make the message clear but having the text makes the site’s goals a no brainer to figure out. Back to the previous idea of load times, text loads instantly and drives the message home fast. At least you can get the user to see the text while they wait for the images to load that reinforce the site’s theme.

Navigation and layout
A simple navigation structure can convince people to stay longer on your site. If the user feels like they can easily navigate your site to find what they looking for, they will be more likely to stay longer. Keep main navigation at the top and use standards for example: About, Services, Links, and Contact. Don’t overwhelm people with links. One of the biggest mistakes people make to bombard people with navigational links. This makes people feel confused and you want to make things as simple as possible for them. Your layout for your site should make it easy for people to contact you. Put a phone number and email at the top right of every page and add your businesses address and contact information to the bottom of every page. I’m not saying that people will contact you as a result but having contact information in plain sight creates a feeling of trust that makes people feel they are dealing with a real business. Creating trust makes your users feel comfortable and more likely to spend time on your site.

Give a reason to come back
A site that looks active can not only bring visitors back but encourage new visitors to stay longer. A site that updates often creates trust, makes all information shown seem timelier and therefore more relevant, and encourages curiosity. Trust is important and updates create trust showing that people are active on the site. Adding recent change dates or daily blog make a site look active. If people feel like there is a reason to come back to a site they will be more likely to stay in the first place.

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Any questions about the 8 seconds rule or web site stickiness, please feel free to contact me at 905-417-9470 or by email at allanp73@gmail.com

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