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You have only 10 seconds to make a good first impression

Website design tips – 8 ways to keep visitors around for more than 10 seconds

Most people can look at a website and within seconds come away with an impression of whether it’s clean, professional and worth their time, or whether it looks like it’s run by a 12-year-old out of his mother’s basement.

Website design tips – 8 ways to keep visitors around for more than 10 seconds

Most people can look at a website and within seconds come away with an impression of whether it’s clean, professional and worth their time, or whether it looks like it’s run by a 12-year-old out of his mother’s basement.

If you only have 10 seconds to capture the attention of your visitor, then your front page better load quickly

Keep it clean, efficient, and focused. Your website should create an immediate sense of comfort and well being. Accomplish this by choosing a clean, efficient design with an easily discernable central focus. Use lots of white space, choose comforting colors, and readable fonts.

Avoid speckled backgrounds, unreadable type fonts and a bewildering assortment of buttons, animations, drop down or pop up menus, and multiple frames.

Catch them in the first 10 seconds. Initial impressions are very important in face to face meetings as well as in website exposure. Many experts suggest that you have less than 10 seconds to make a favorable impression on your visitor. Otherwise they may just click off.

Your front page delivers the first impression. It’s usually the most important page on your site. For that reason, it needs to be a fast, effective messenger.

With a quick glance, visitors to your site should know exactly what your site is all about or what your business does. Determine what image and message you want the customer to “get” in those first few seconds, and design your front page toward that objective.

Anything that distracts from the central message or image you wish to project should be removed from the page. (If you want to see effective front-page designs, visit the top 30 sites on the web.)

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Don’t make them wait!. If you only have 10 seconds to capture the attention of your visitor, then your front page better load quickly. If it takes more than 20 seconds to load, most visitors will bail out before the page fully loads.

You can speed the loading of your pages by eliminating unnecessary graphics, especially photographs. Review every image on your page carefully, and include only those that are absolutely necessary. Those graphics that you must use should be compressed in an image compression program before you place them on your site. SWEPA uses Ulead Smart Saver.

Also avoid using offsite page counters, news feeds and other resources that slow down the loading of your main page.

Give them a reason to explore. You don’t want to overwhelm visitors with too much information on the front page of your site. That’s why most large sites divide the page into two or three main areas.

The first area is usually the left navigation panel, with links to different categories of information. These category names should include hot button words that appeal to the visitor searching for content related to the main focus of the site.

The second area is the central body text area, which should present the main focus of the site, and interesting headlines with teaser copy linking to new articles and content pages. Use these headlines to pique the interest of visitors and give them a reason to explore further.

The third area is usually the right navigation panel, which includes additional info, surveys, calendars, small banner ads, etc.

Keep the site from becoming cluttered by using abundant spacing between the three main areas, and plenty of white space throughout.

Make it easy to explore. Use a standardized navigation system that is repeated on all pages within your site. Seeing an easy-to-use navigation system can help visitors feel comfortable about exploring your site.

Avoid using hard to read graphic buttons, hard to find drop down menus, or any other programming tricks that do more to prevent visitors from exploring than encouraging them to do so.

Keep it fresh. Make sure the headlines, text, and other information on your main page is always up to date. Visitors are usually interested in current news, reviews, and information, and will leave your site if they get the impression it hasn’t been updated in months.

This is especially true when it comes to navigation links. In most cases, visitors will abandon your site after encountering just two broken links.

Give them a reason to bookmark your site. If you want visitors to come back to your site, give them a reason to bookmark it. The easiest way to do this is to accomplish all of the above. If your site is interesting, appealing, and offers the kind of content that the visitor may want to look at sometime in the future, they will usually bookmark your site.

On the other hand, if your site design is confusing, outdated, and hard to navigate, don’t expect visitors to have any reason to return.

Find out the CMS features that publishers require to manage an online publishing business. Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways Haven Wordpress Goes Beyond Wordpress, and discover the features all publishers should have access to for a bigger audience, greater revenue, and higher profits.

By Peter A. Schaible

Peter has worked with Mequoda's consulting clients to create keyword-rich, search-engine-optimized, rapid conversation landing pages, sales letter landing pages, and other written components of Mequoda System websites.

"If your website can't be found by Google, or isn't ranked highly in Google search results, it virtually doesn't exist," he says.

An experienced direct response advertising copywriter prior to the Internet, Peter was an early convert to the research pioneered by Don Nicholas and the discovery of the Mequoda System. Today, Peter is an enthusiastic evangelist for - and teacher of - the Mequoda System strategies, techniques, tips and tricks that work to increase product sales and profits for online publishers.

For more than 20 years he has been president of SunDance New Media, his own marketing communications consulting firm. Prior to its merger with Mequoda in June 2005, Peter was executive director of the Subscription Website Publishers Association and editor of its website, which published nearly 500 of his articles and interviews.

Read Peter’s posts here.

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