The 8 second rule. What is it and what do you need to know about it?
You have 8 seconds when someone visits your website to engage them before they click away to somewhere else, to your competitors. That’s not true of everyone of course but it is estimated that sites loose over 50% of their visitors in the first 8 seconds. You’ve heard it said that first impressions count. Well, that first impression needs to be made in 8 seconds. How do you think your website holds up?
Does the 8 second rule apply every time?
All right, the 8 second rule doesn’t apply every time. People who are coming back to your site have already placed some value in you and are likely to stay longer. Similarly, if you have a site for a government institution, people will use you because you are the place to get the information they need. If you have met someone at an event and connected that way, you are likely to be able to hold them for a little longer. As always, you want to be working to your lowest common denominator, so you have to assume you only have 8 seconds.
Trap them in your web
There are a few things you can do to stop people leaving because of the 8 second rule. This is known as making your site sticky, a bit like a spider makes its web sticky so the fly can’t escape.
- Loading Time
- Solve your client’s problem
- Make it easy to get around
- Give reasons to come back
Let us take a closer look at these.
Washing machine loads
A website isn’t like a washing machine. It can’t handle large loads and slow loading websites are a great way to fall foul of the 8 second rule. There’s not much that you can do about this on your own but it’s worth mentioning to your web designer (did I mention I make websites?). You need to make sure your site loads pretty quickly. In fact, most websites now load in under 5 seconds, so the 8 second rule shouldn’t be too difficult, right? There are ways to do this, from keeping picture size down to minimising the use of code where it’s not needed. A good designer will give you options for that. If they don’t then it is always worth talking to someone else who may be able to help. My number is 08443 34 35 31.
Who are you?
When someone comes to your site they’re not interested in who you are. That’s a tricky thing for people to hear sometimes but the fact is people are selfish. They are there to solve their problem so the best thing you can do is give them that solution right on the home page of your site. You must have seen some advertising agencies who talk in double speak. They say they’re about innovation and imagination and forward facing blue sky thinking without actually saying “We make adverts for you.” How would your own 8 second rule stand up against their content?
The thing to do here is figure out who your target market is and what problem they have that you solve. Then tell them about it. If your client needs a swimming pool for their home there is nothing wrong with saying “We make swimming pools for your home,” straight on the site. Think about your current content in connection with the 8 second rule. If you only had 8 seconds, how would your site look?
Run around now!
Navigation and layout is really important. A simple structure will make it easy for people to find the information that they need. Recent advances in the technology used to create menus now means we can have ‘Mega Menus’ which give the user much more information. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is in the same place on each page and doesn’t keep changing. One thing that breaks the 8 second rule is making people search for the next link they want. Sometimes you will want to have page specific navigation. That’s fine but again, try and keep this consistent so people aren’t having to look around for the information they want each time.
There is theory behind the way websites are laid out. Content is generally seen as the large block on the left or right hand side of the page. Many websites incorporate a side bar. Sometimes it is a useful devices for decimating information but sometimes it distracts from the message of the page. This can be quite a difficult thing to get your head around so talking to your web designer should give you some ideas as to what is best for you.
Making your site active and interactive is a good way to get people to come back to you. The more times they return, the more likely it is they will use your service. To some extent you want to encourage curiosity, this will make people bookmark useful information and dig through your site more but the most important thing you can do to create returning customers is build trust.
Trust and social proof are really two sides of the same coin. Testimonials are good for building social proof or “I’ve seen others who have used the service.” It also creates trust as a by product. Also, the things that you say, if they resonate with your clients, will help build up trust. You need to demonstrate in your content that you know the problems they have and your willing to solve them. Not only that but, if you can, give them the solution for free by explaining to them how you will provide it. Testimonials from happy customers or video demonstrations of the product being used are other ways to build trust, as is connecting with people over social networks.
There are several ways that you can grab your target market’s attention and conform to the 8 second rule. Each time you implement something like this you are making your website stickier. There is nothing bad about providing your clients with the information they want straight off the bat and, in fact, I would say it is the most important thing you can do. You may only have 8 seconds but the simple rules above can turn those 8 seconds in to a qualified lead.