Turn Harsh Skeptics into Engaged Website Visitors in 10 Seconds (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

Want an engaging website? Show value to visitors within the first 10 seconds.

How long do you have to make a good first impression on your website?  I always thought it was 3 seconds.  But now we have new insight from Jakob Nielsen’s article about page abandonment time. Here are hard data showing that within the first 10 seconds, most website visitors decide whether to stay or leave.

What’s happening the instant your website visitor arrives?

If you look at visit time in your analytics program, you may see that the majority of visits last mere moments.    People are looking for a reason to stay. Website visitors start with extremely low expectations.  Your page is presumed useless unless you show otherwise at a glance.  Your job is to prove instantly there’s a reason to keep reading.  Nielsen says it best:

The probability of leaving is very high during these first few seconds because users are extremely skeptical, having suffered countless poorly designed Web pages in the past. People know that most Web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages.

To engage website visitors, overcome low expectations first

What do you get after 10 seconds?  It turns out, you earn the same amount of time to do the same thing.  You get another few moments of decision time.  To engage people, your job is to quickly move website visitors from harshly judging your content, toward deciding to stay with it.

After about 20 seconds, the rate at which people leave your page sharply goes down.  After 30 seconds, the remaining visitors go away much more gradually.  That’s what Nielsen means by the negative aging effect. Website traffic lasting more than half a minute is less likely to go away.  You can see it in the curve Nielsen has drawn from the data:

After the first 10 seconds, more website visitors choose to stay instead of leave

After the first 10 seconds, more website visitors choose to stay instead of leave

After a visitor  chooses to stay engaged for 20 seconds, you’ve made a sort of conversion.  You have weeded your “web traffic” into engaged visitors.

Summary:
Users often leave Web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer because visit-durations follow a negative Weibull distribution.

via How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages? (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox).

How do you get visitors to give you more time?

Your content leverages time.  First, your content must show your visitor the most desired benefit – instantly.  Then, you and your offer must be credible. Your tone, image and promise must be something your readers choose to believe.

The job of designing and building a website is to share content that’s meaningful and believable.  That’s why I’m here – your questions about how to get longer website visits are welcome here or in the comments:

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