The less time users spend on your website, the better

It may sound counterintuitive, but your objective should be to reduce the amount of time customers spend on your website.

A recent Jakob Nielsen article states that, “Users often leave Web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer.”

“The average page visit lasts a little less than a minute,” Nielsen states. He summarizes his article by saying that “there are two cases here: bad pages, which get the chop in a few seconds; and good pages, which might be allocated a few minutes.”

Not necessarily. Suppose I’m looking for an installation guide for a water purification system. There are many pages on the way to the page this guide is on. I want to get through these pages as quickly as possible. Ten seconds should be more than enough time to help me find the link I need. These sort of navigational pages should be judged by how accurately and quickly they guide a person.

Even when I get to my page or document on installation, judging success based on how long I spend on the page is fraught with danger. If the content is confusing, I may spend ages trying to understand it and still not complete my task of learning how to install the product.

My task is not to find the installation guide, but to learn how to install the product. Some will say, sure, getting the customer in and out of the website as quickly as possible is OK for support, but what about marketing?

Support is the new marketing! When I analyze the Web behavior of potential customers I see that they want detail. They want to know about installation guides, troubleshooting and compatibility. They want the meaty detail, and often that detail is what is traditionally understood as support content.

“As users rush through Web pages, they have time to read only a quarter of the text on the pages they actually visit (let alone all those they don’t),” Nielsen writes. “So, unless your writing is extraordinarily clear and focused, little of what you say on your website will get through to customers.”

So your content should be as clearly written as possible. There are examples where longer is better, but in the majority of cases, brutally short content is what people need.
I have seen several studies where the longer people spent on a page, the less they understood. Spending a long time reading something does not in any way imply a quality experience. Often, it can be the very opposite.

Too many Web teams are focused on spending the customers’ time when they really should be focused on saving the customer’s time.

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords and New Thinking e-mail newsletter. Contact Gerry at gerry@gerrymcgovern.com .

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