It’s one thing to get someone to your website. It’s something quite different to get them to stay.
We’ve talked about web design before, but compelling design is so much more than having a pretty website. The fact is that, once you’ve gotten them to click a link and visit your site, you’ve got between ten and twenty seconds to get their attention and tell them they’ve come to the right place before they click away. Nobody wants to waste their time on the wrong website, and with a million bazillion options out there, well, nobody has to either.
You’ve got to convince them that they need you before they retreat back to Twitter or Google or wherever it is they came from. So it’s up to you to quickly and effectively communicate your value so that the right people are willing to hang out, poke around, explore – and eventually decide you’re worth their time.
Your audience is impatient, and ten to twenty seconds isn’t exactly a great amount of time to capture someone’s interest. But if you’re doing it right, it’s all the time you need.
Clear, Short Messaging that Addresses Your Audience’s Need
Your website’s first job is to answer the question “what is this and why do I care?” Many businesses get bogged down in creating websites that, while beautiful or clever, don’t provide a compelling reason to stay.
Creating clear, short messaging that addresses your audience’s need changes depending on what you do and who you do it for, but whatever it is, it’s got to tell your audience why you’re worth their time. You need to make sure that your visitors’ first thought isn’t “this sure is a pretty website” but “this company is speaking to my problems or desires, which makes me think they might be able to offer the service I’m looking for.”
Dropbox, for example, has amazing messaging. You visit their website and the first thing you see is “Your stuff, anywhere.” Wow, you think. My stuff – anywhere! I’m always wishing I had more of my stuff with me! The value Dropbox offers is immediately clear, and with the sign-up form right there, immediately actionable.
And this can be as simple as “A Better Way to Ride a Bike,” or “A Better Way to Track Inventory;” it doesn’t need to be clever to work. Your audience has a problem, and you have a solution; why bury it by being overly cute?
There’s a reason why Netflix and YouTube eat up most of the internet’s bandwidth: people love video. Video is easy to digest. It takes less work than reading, it’s visually interesting, and just feels more natural; after all, we talk before we read. And people are intrigued. If you can entertain and inform, people are simply much more likely to spend more time on your website than they would have otherwise.
Even without video, you want to have pictures and not big blocks of text. That old saying about how much a picture is worth vis a vis large numbers of words – you know the one – is true; frequently, imagery can communicate much more effectively than words. It’s less imposing, and doesn’t ask your audience to do a ton of work to get what they’re after. The right pictures can create an atmosphere that’s just as communicative as a list of services or your company’s mission statement.
Testimonials, satisfied customers, social proof. Whatever you wanna call it, little blurbs from people who have done business with you are great for front-and-center placement. Combined with the above, they communicate respectability, success, reliability, and trustworthiness – even if your audience doesn’t take the time to read any of them.
Remember – in these ten to twenty seconds, many readers are only skimming the page, taking it in. Putting testimonials right where they can see them makes them more likely to stop and smell the roses; after all, other people have already done business with you. So you can’t be too bad.
Seal the Deal
So if you got their attention, what do you do with it?
Well, you pounce.
If they liked what they saw, there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t sign up for more. Include a short content offer – something quick and easy and noncommittal – and give them a reason to fork over their contact information without feeling like they’ll be roped into a sale they aren’t ready for.
So it’s time to take a hard look today at your own homepage design and ask yourself if it’s following these basic rules. And if it’s not, well, maybe it’s time to think about getting it there.