The Split-Second Reaction – Conversion Wednesday

By Dan G


Every site has a “Split Second Reaction”. From the moment your eyes land on the homepage or landing page your mind has already made an instant assessment of the “overall quality” of the site. Given the ease with which Google and other search engines provide alternative websites, this concept of “instant affinity” is critical to conversion rates.

Just think of your last visit to the video store or your netflix account. Were you scanning the rows to find that perfect movie? We all do it. If we’re not sure what we’re looking for, we constantly scan all the new releases for something that “pops out” at us. We rely on our brains to filter visual images in such a way that we only see items of interest. Of course the same reaction occurs when we’re scanning through websites for products or information. From just glancing at a site, the brain has already decided its “overall quality” and whether its “cover” is of interest.

This means your site has to depict a good first impression right off the bat, on the very first page your visitors see. A site must look as if it has valuable information, even before any of its content is even read! This may sound impossible, but a few tips can help you well on your way.

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Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when developing home pages and landing pages:

  1. Keep key content (or even all the content (if applicable)) above the fold.
    Providing key content without the need to scroll down (referred to as being “above the fold”) allows a visitor to instantly assess your site. In addition, adhering to this rule also ensures the amount of content is kept to a minimum. (hopefully disuading you from going off on long tangents) Of course, later in the site flow, pages will need to be longer to effectively communicate all the necessary information, but this amount of detail should be kept deep enough in the site so that the visitor will have to be interested enough to navigate to that level.

  2. Use a prominent positioning statement.
    A brief and succinct statement about the problems addressed and solutions provided shown in a distinct graphic style will help the visitor see that your information can be distilled in a few words. This provides confidence that time spent on your site will not be wasted. Shoot for no more than 12 words in a larger font than the rest of the page that is positioned in such a way that it will be instantly viewable. Be cautious of placing this text over the top of an image which can make it hard to read.

  3. Reduce the “Cluttered Image Look”
    Too many images on a page create a feeling of clutter and disorganization. When the goal is to present the image of specific, well-structured information, the overuse of images can be a hindrance. In general, I’d suggest one main image be used to set the tone of the site and other smaller images being used to call attention to key areas such as links, offers and calls-to-action.

  4. Provide a few, specific links.
    Providing a few, specific links to key areas within the site will send the message that you understand what your visitors are looking for. Too many links can overwhelm and frustrate the user. Try using some symbols or graphics to emphasize these links as being the next place to go on your site. Since everyone’s time is scarce, providing well-structured, succinct information will always be preferred. Remember that although we’ve been discussing the first impression as less than a second, these elements must also give the user what they are looking for — once they decide that a more detailed look is worthwhile. This means that the positioning statement, graphics and links should all be highly targeted to what your visitors are seeking.

So what have we learned today?

  1. Visitors are unknowingly judging your site’s “overall quality” within the split-second that they land on your site.
  2. Remove the Clutter – Keep most (if not all) of your key content above the fold and reduce the number of “cluttered” images. This allows visitors to instantly assess your site without getting overwhelmed or confused with your content and navigation.
  3. Use a brief and succinct statement to summarize the page or site to the visitor. The simpler the better. This will provide confidence that time spent on your site will not be wasted.
  4. Provide a few, specific links. This will send the message that you understand what your visitors are looking for and don’t want to overwhelm them with unneccessary options.

    Of course, there is only one way to be certain that you’ve made the right decisions to impact your visitor’s “SPLIT SECOND REACTION”, and that is through testing. Testing a few variations of prominent statements or specific, targeted links on your site in an AB or Multivariate test is the only way of finding the best changes for your website with any certainty. That’s where we can help.