In some circles of Internet Marketing, there is a pervasive thought that says you have less than 10 seconds to make a good impression with the homepage of any website. If someone views the homepage of a site and doesn't like it within the first 10 seconds…they leave and move on to another site. Some people say you have even less time! With many marketing professionals, they say it is around 7 seconds. 7 seconds?!
There are many people who use what is referred to as ‘The Rule of 7' in many facets of their lives and business. The number 7 comes up an incredible amount of times in everyday life. What's so special about the number seven? We have the Seven Wonders of the World, the seven seas, the seven deadly sins, the seven levels of hell, the seven primary colors, and the seven days of the week? What about the 7 tips for a better (insert your favorite topic here). Why are there only seven numbers in everyone's phone number?
There is no real concrete reason why the number seven is so heavily influences our lives. In 1956, psychologist George Miller, after extensive study, wrote a paper entitled, "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information". In his study, he equated seven to the maximum number of information segments that humans can process at any given time. While his view on the subject is somewhat contested in various circles, it does raise some interesting questions and ideas. Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist who took some of George Miller's ideas and ran with them in the realm of social psychology. In his book, Tipping Point, he says, "as human beings we can only handle so much information at once. Once we pass a certain boundary, we become overwhelmed." He then goes on to recount some of Miller's research and comes up with that boundary being near six or seven points maximum.
What we do know is that seven is an important number. So, if we use the ‘seven second impression' time limit as our benchmark in the design and presentation of your website's homepage and navigation, then how do we make the best use of those seven precious seconds? Since we're discussing the enigmatic number 7, let's create seven guidelines to use:
- Simplicity. Simple, yet attractive works well. Unique and creative doesn't have to mean complicated and overwhelming. Many times too much action and information on a homepage becomes overwhelming, causing people to click away quickly. Many website designs feature seven main operation/navigation buttons (coincidence? Nah!).
- Purpose. What is the purpose of the site? Make it immediately clear. "Great taste…Less Filling" is the idea here. Lean and mean. In the spirit of simplicity, get right to the point with the site's message. Where do you want to take a site visitor? Make it abundantly clear.
- Consistency in Layout. Make sure that your site's layout remains consistent from page to page. People get frustrated when they have to search how to go from page 3 back to the home page. Ensure that your navigation process is simple and consistent throughout the entire site. Make sure that everything you incorporate into the site revolves around being user-friendly and interactive.
- Know What the Competition is Doing. Research your competitor's sites, find out what they are doing right, and do it better on your company's site!
- Professional in Content. While you may be considered the most knowledgeable person about your company's products and services, you're ability to write perfect prose may be questionable. It's always a good idea to hire a writer to create your site's content. Or, if you want to generate the message yourself, consider hiring a proofreader and/or editor to review the text for the site. It's in poor taste to have an excellently designed website that is full of run-on sentences, misspellings, and improper punctuation. Create a completely professional package by making sure your content is written correctly.
- Test the Site Yourself. Put yourself in the position of a potential customer/site visitor. Use the site from their point of view. If the site is set up to process orders, then go through the entire order process. Make sure it is error free, not confusing, and transitions smoothly throughout the whole process.
- Ask Others to Evaluate for You. Ask other people to use the site and review it for you. Asking for outside help can sometimes bring to light issues that you may have never noticed on your own. Try to use a broad cross section of people to review the site. In doing this you will get a good snapshot of the effectiveness of the site.
These seven guidelines are not all inclusive. There are other things that rank highly in importance too for ensuring you get the most "bang for your buck" in the precious seven to ten second opportunity you have with a visitor to your company's website. However, these are seven extremely critical components that should always be considered.
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