How long do you think a typical person will spend looking at your website? A couple of minutes to flick through a few of those pages that you spent so long on? Sorry to disappoint you, but people spend an incredibly short amount of time on a given web page. Most studies indicate the average is under a minute, if you’re lucky. Some even say it’s around 15 seconds.
You have a very small window to make a good impression, so you’ve got to make the most of it. The Brand Newsroom team with Sarah Mitchell, James Lush and Nic Hayes discussed how websites have become the all-important first impression and business card rolled into one, in this podcast.
This is who you are. This is what represents you. - Nic Hayes, Media Stable.
Here’s what you can do to engage your visitors:
Location, location, location: website real estate matters
Where you place items on your home page could be the difference between someone buying your product or not. Contacting you or not. Even simply remembering your company name or not.
Eye tracking studies by the Nielsen Norman Group have revealed some interesting findings. For one thing, readers do not ‘read’ the content on a website. They scan. This is typically done in a rough F-shape pattern, with the horizontal header area scanned first, followed by a smaller horizontal line an inch or two underneath. The F shape is completed with a glance down the left-hand side of the screen, with the first few words of headings or paragraphs plucked out and read. You can use this knowledge to place important information on the site (bullet points work great) and give yourself the best possible chance of grabbing the reader’s attention by using snappy headlines in F-shape locations.
It has been reported that web users look at the left-hand side of the screen twice as much as they look at the right-hand side. This is because European languages are read from left to right, top to bottom, so it’s natural for readers to look for the all-important beginning of the sentence to see what will jump out at them. This pattern is so important when you’re considering where to put crucial information.
Put your most important information in the first two paragraphs of written information so visitors to your website are more likely to see it, read it and take it in.
Logo placement: should you be traditional or unique?
Are you tempted to be unique and not put your logo in the traditional position in the upper left-hand side? Resist the temptation. There is a very good reason why big players like Wikipedia, Amazon and YouTube all have their logo in the typical spot. People are creatures of habit and want to know where to find your company identity immediately. So don’t waste those precious few seconds you have a reader on your page only to make them search needlessly for your logo. Plus, not only are website users more likely to remember the name of a company if the logo is in the regular spot but, strangely enough, they are also more likely to rate those companies as more unique.
What you can do now
While you may not have access to in-house eye tracking studies, there are plenty of alternatives available with providers such as Crazy Egg, heatmap.me and Clicktale to find out exactly what visitors are engaging with on your site. There are various ways these tools are used, from heat maps which show ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ areas users are scrolling, to confetti maps which gather all the individual click-throughs on a page. Some may also provide analytic information to identify where users have arrived from, and what key words were searched for — your company name precisely or something else.
The all-important call-to-action button
‘Buy Now’, ‘Sign Up’, ‘Request a Syllabus’. The call to action (CTA) is the most important aspect of your website as that’s often the point that’ll bring in sales, so you want to get it right. First up, make sure there aren’t too many CTA buttons begging for attention and confusing readers. Your aim should be to make it blindingly obvious where they need to head next or what to click on.
Now, on to the aesthetics. Make sure the button actually looks like a button. Web users have come to expect a CTA to look a certain way and, as with the logo placement we discussed earlier, don’t waste people’s time in making them search. You want to make it as easy as possible. Make sure it is rectangular and choose colours that contrast with the background to draw their attention.
What should you say in your CTA? Keep it simple but forget about ‘Enter’ or ‘Submit’; jazz it up, raise the anticipation, and tell them exactly what they’ll get after clicking on that button. Think straightforward active statements such as ‘Start the 30-day trial now’ or ‘Get my free e-book’.
There is also debate about where the all-important button should sit. Perhaps the answer lies in the level of investment you are asking of the user. If the product or offer is simple, such as a free download, place the CTA somewhere near the top of the page. However if it’s more complex or expensive, like buying technical equipment, the CTA would be better off lower on the page once people have had time to consider the information and offering.
The take home messages:
- The company logo should be in the upper left corner.
- Your most important information should be in the first two paragraphs.
- Use interesting headers and paragraph beginnings to capitalise on the F-shape scan.
- Draw readers’ attention with headings and bullet lists instead of endless essay-like writing
- Make sure the CTA looks like a button and has simple action words inside
- The CTA depends on your product and audience – higher up for low investment and lower on the page for high investment.
Want more on this topic? Have a listen to the Brand Newsroom’s podcast What Should I Do With My Website?
If you’d like help improving engagement on your website, contact Lush Digital Media. We love to help brands get better results from their communication strategy.