Make Sure Your Site Passes the 7 Second Test

2003 Viki Nygaard

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Seven seconds. That's all the time you have to make a good impression on your web site visitors. Seven seconds is not a lot of time! What happens if your site doesn't make the grade? CLICK! Off to the competition they go. Let's discuss what you can do to make sure your site's layout, design and copy are ready for the test.

First and foremost, the site has to revolve around the customer. Every idea must begin with the customer in mind. Each aspect should attribute to the customer's experience.

We often talk with clients who are focused more on their own interests rather than the customer's. They want the site to reflect their personality. They are concerned about choosing graphics, colors and verbiage that makes a statement based on themselves. Granted, the site visitor does need to know who you are and what services your business offers, but there are ways to go about this task by focusing primarily on the client.

Know Your Target Audience As Well As You Know Your Best Friend

This is the primary principle of all marketing. If you don't know detailed information about your target group, it will be extremely difficult to create a site that caters to their needs.

Are your customers mostly men? If so, a site designed with a pink lace border and teddy bears will most likely not make them feel at home. Do you cater to work-at-home moms? Web copy that discusses strategies of getting along with your co-workers probably won't be very attention grabbing for them.

Take the time to find out who your customers are and what appeals to them. Use that information as the foundation for designing your site.

Layout of Your Site - Use the KISS Equation

Are you familiar with the KISS equation? KISS stands for Keep It Simple Sweetie! When it comes to the layout of your site, this acronym speaks volumes.

Your site must be easy to navigate. Think of your customers. Consider what actions they are likely to take while visiting your site. Then stick to the three-click rule. Create a layout that would allow the customer to get to where they are going in three clicks or less.

So many web site owners are trying to achieve the look and feel of those big corporate sites. The untold truth is those sites get a multitude of complaints because they are very difficult to navigate. Customers often get frustrated because they can't find what they are looking for.

Take advantage of the fact that your site can be clean, uncluttered and easily maneuvered. Your customers will thank you for it!

Design - Less Is More

Flashing animations, tons of photographs and a truckload of high-megabyte graphics are not necessarily the signs of a well-designed site. Those things slow your load time and can look overwhelming. And making the customer wait is not something in your best interest. Remember, part of your first impression on the visitor will be how quickly your site loads.

When designing your site, less is more. Certainly, graphics and photos add interest to the pages. They are a worthy addition. But use these things sparingly. Don't allow them to create load times of 10, 20 or 30 seconds. It's a safe bet the customer won't stick around long enough to see the design at all if it takes longer than 10 seconds to load. Would you?

Once the Home page comes up, be sure your potential client isn't horrified by a circus of animations and graphics. Unless your target audience consists primarily of teenagers, an overload of these types of things can look unprofessional and create a visually distasteful statement.

Again, know your target audience. Consider what they want to see on the screen. Are you working with professionals? Think about an attractive blend of darker colors such as navy blue, taupe and burnt red against a white background. Since most professionals appreciate appearance but are more interested in the bottom line, try using one photograph per page. This would allow your copy to carry most of the weight and would give the customer what they want - content.

Copy - Makes It or Breaks It

The copy is the mainstay of any web site. Why? It presents the information, leads the customer through the steps and makes the sale.

Copy also contributes to your search engine rankings. A gentle balance of search engine keywords and vital sales information make for professional copy that really draws in the target audience. In addition, proper use of keywords allows those in your target group to find you in the first place. Be sure to choose keywords that are frequently searched under.

The reason any visitor clicks on any web site is to see the content. Yes, again, photos and graphics are wonderful at pepping up the pages. An attractively designed site goes a long way toward achieving Brownie Points in the area of visualization. But think of this... a car dealer can't sell a car with just a photo. A gift store can't sell baskets of goodies with a graphic. At some point the customer is going to have questions that must be answered with words... copy. Be sure yours is professional, well written and contains compelling headlines. One freelance copywriting service I use is KT & Associates (http://www.ktamarketing.com).

Who would have ever thought the human brain could ascertain so much in just seven seconds! It's very true - you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. It's a tough test to pass, but I'm sure you can do it. Just transfer the focus from you to your customer!


Viki Nygaard is President of Mount Evans Designs specializing in professional Web design. For those businesses who insist on quality but must maintain a budget, visit http://www.mountevansdesigns.com today. You'll be thrilled with the exceptional designs and the affordable rates!