This is the number of seconds a visitor will spend on a website on average before deciding whether to stay or go. In this kind of time, all they can really take in is whether your website is likely to offer them what they are looking for by scanning the menu and the content of the page briefly. If they decide to stay, their next concern will be how easy and quick it will be to complete their ‘ website journey’, be it finding the information they were after, completing a transaction or subscribing to a newsletter.
Why Won’t ‘They’ Use Websites the Way They Were Designed to Be Used?
Yes, how frustrating… You have spent hours designing a clever website and yet it is not quite doing what you expected for your business. The thing is that the internet has given birth to specific behaviours:
- We are incredibly impatient when we surf the internet. Information has to jump to us. If we have to work too hard to understand the structure of a website, if we can’t find what we’re looking for quickly, we will just go somewhere else.
- Browsing a website is not linear like reading a book. You can jump back and forth between pages which means that, as a website owner, you have absolutely no control over how your visitors will use your website. We all process information differently, so what makes sense to them is not necessarily what makes sense to you.
However, what research has shown is that we all tend to scan webpages the same way, in an ‘F’ pattern, i.e. we look at its top banner, at the left-hand side of the page, and scan a bit of the content in the middle, highlighting the importance of having a clear navigation structure.
Keep It Simple
- Following the ‘F’ pattern, a menu positioned either at the top or on the left side will attract your visitors’ eyes. If you need both menus, make sure that the division of content is logical. The top menu will be perceived as more important so you could, for example, keep the information that would lead to a sale in the top menu and additional text which doesn’t to the side menu. Ideally, you wouldn’t want to have more than 7-8 menu sections in either.
- Avoid more than one sub-level in your menus, as your visitors may not enjoy Russian dolls and decide to leave if it gets too complicated.
- Treat each of your webpage as though it were the only page on your website. You have no control over the entry point to your site. It may be the homepage, but it may not, so make sure that every page makes sense on its own.
- Signpost the webpage content by breaking up your text with headings, highlighting important sections with bold font or a different colour.
- Make sure your visitors know what to do next with calls to action. If you want them to contact you, add your contact details, if you want them to make a purchase, have a ‘Buy It’ button everywhere relevant.