Four Ways to Waste Four Seconds

Important Fact: Most web surfers will give a web page only 4 seconds before they decide whether to stay and explore your site or leave.

Some web designers will give their clients whatever they want with no question. Sounds ideal? Not necessarily. If what you want will actually drive people AWAY from your site instead of driving them towards the sale, information, whatever you want them to see, then you have paid that designer a lot of extra money so that you can ultimately lose even more money.

I honestly turn away a lot of money each and every week by talking clients out of expensive additions to their sites that I know will only hurt them. I WANT your site to be successful, because then you will recommend me to your friends. I’d rather make my money by delivering the best site for your goals and getting more business in the end.

So I bring you The 4 Things I Will Always Try to Talk You Out Of:

1. Splash Pages:

A splash page is an opening page to your site that has no actual content on it – usually it will just have the company logo and a tagline, or a Flash intro with things moving around, and an “Enter Site” or “Skip Intro” link.

When someone goes to your site, they have already taken the step to “enter” your site. Why are you asking them to make that decision again? It’s like you are saying, “But are you SURE?” Studies show that 25% of site visitors will choose NOT to enter your site if you have a splash page or Flash intro. They will hit the Back button and go somewhere else.

You already HAD them on your site! Then you lost them, without telling them or showing them anything about your business, except that maybe their time is not really all that valuable to you. They will not even give you their usual 4 seconds.

PLUS: Search engines consider your home page to be your most important page – it is the page they will try to index first. No content? Nothing to index, and they may just skip your site without looking any further.

2. Music:

This request is slowly fading away, but occasionally comes up again, especially in certain industries. Nothing will drive more people away from your site than forcing them to listen to your chosen music while they desperately try to find your mute button or hit the volume key on their computer. Most people will just hit Back and flee.

Having music playing is intrusive and annoying.

Your taste in music is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Many people browse the web at work, and sudden music playing can tip off the boss that Bob is not working on his expense reports. Guess who Bob hates now?

Music also gobbles up bandwidth if it is of any quality at all, and thus will slow your site down. Has it been 4 seconds yet?

3. Extraneous Flash:

Flash is a great tool, when used judiciously. I love Flash for things like slideshows – you can show lots of photos quickly in a small space. Most uses of Flash however are extraneous, slow down your site, are ignored by search engines, and waste your site visitor’s precious 4 seconds of patience.

When I get to a web site that is all in Flash, I usually leave. WIthout even looking at it I know I will spend a lot of time waiting for navigation to show up on the page and for the content to appear wherever it will end up. Most of us have learned this, and so even if your Flash site is designed for a great, fast user experience, many many people will not even bother to find that out. Back Button City.

Flash also still does not work on iPhones. So you can cross all the iPhone users off your list automatically.

4. Multiple Designs:

People will have to use some of their precious 4 seconds learning your site navigation – where are the main links to get to other pages of the site – and how your content is arranged. We are all willing to do this once for a site, as long as it is not too difficult. If the navigation is hidden or moves around, forget it, but that is another post.

Once a person learns your navigation and layout, it should STAY THE SAME for the rest of your web site, on every page of your site. Do not expect people to be so wowed by all the pretty designs on your site that they are wiling to use up any more of their time trying to find what they need and how to navigate. Most people will not bother.

It is not boring for your site to look the same on every page – it is easy to read. It is easy to find what you came for. It is easy to make purchases, get information, look at your work. This is the goal – get people to what you want them to see as quickly and painlessly as possible. Not to impress them with how many different ways your web site can look.

Keep it simple, keep it beautiful, keep it easy.