I admit I probably use the Internet and visit more web sites than your average person. And, the average homepage visit for 80% of the sites I see ... ? Approximately 5 seconds. I’m a power surfer. When I’m searching for something, be it reference material, product information, or travel planning, I’m on super-speed mode in my search. And, in this mode, the first impression is everything. Within just 5 seconds, I evaluate a web site on these 5 key factors:
- Performance - Does the page load quickly? I’m on a T1 at work and have cable at home. Most web sites load quickly, so when I come across one that doesn’t it’s a big red flag. If a page takes over 10 seconds to load, I get frustrated and abandon the web site altogether. A typical user plans on exploring several pages of your site. If they are frustrated by the first page they encounter, they’re not likely to continue browsing the remaining pages.
- Credibility - Is this site a reliable source? This is especially important when looking for resource material or doing some online shopping. If I’m looking for resources, I want to get my information from an expert. If I’m shopping, I only give my credit card information to someone who looks like they have a solid professional business, not an overnight shop in someone’s garage.
- Relevancy - Does the site have what I’m looking for? If there isn’t a key indicator that I can find what I’m looking for, I quickly hit the back button and move down my list of search results. Time is precious, and I’m in no mood for a treasure hunt within your site, especially when there are thousands of other sites to choose from. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that separates you from the next site is a higher search engine result.
- Usability - Will I be able to find what I need quickly? Last night, I was searching for resorts in the Caribbean. I landed on what was clearly a Caribbean tourism web site. But, it was overloaded with links across the top and side that weren’t clearly labeled or organized. There were banners, text, and links scattered across the page with no logical grouping or hierarchy. I was positive this site had what I was looking for; but, I knew it would take too much time and effort to find it. Surely, there was another web site with what I needed that was better organized.
- Currency - Is this information up-to-date? Just because you find something online today doesn’t mean it’s not outdated. It’s amazing how many sites I’ve come across that have been abandoned, but still exist online. We’re half-way through 2006 and so many companies list “recent news” on their homepage dated 2004! That immediately leads me to assume that that business isn’t doing well, that the rest of the web site is out of date, and that the company is no longer a key player in the industry.
First impressions are more important on the web than in person. When you meet someone in person, I’m sure they don’t take a quick look at you, smile, and then turn around to meet the next person without even speaking to you. That would be rude! But online, it’s more than a common practice, it's how people use the Internet. Someone visits your web site and, before they even read the contents of your homepage, they hit the back button and go off to another web site. You know what your company offers. You know that you are a solid business with an outstanding track record. But, does your homepage communicate this to the rest of the world? Take a few seconds and evaluate your own web site.