It’s tempting to believe that customers come to your website with an open mind, carefully read through each page, and make an objective assessment of your offering. 

What actually happens is that each customer forms an opinion in a fraction of a second, establishes an emotional commitment to that opinion, and then seeks out and organizes facts to support what they want to believe. You have less than a second to help your customer form a positive emotional commitment to your brand so they read your message with optimistic abandon and want to believe. Alternatively, if a customer forms a negative commitment, you can end up with a skeptic combing through your message looking for gotchas and assuming the worst.

Less than a second

And then, the clock continues to tick. According to user experience researchers at Nielsen Norman Group, The first 10 seconds on your website are critical to a customer’s decision to stay or leave.

  • The first 10 seconds are a toe-dip in the pool, a step specifically designed to bring harsh judgement upon the environment customers are considering immersing themselves in. Most customers don’t make it past the toe dip stage.
  • During seconds 11 – 30, readers tend to look around, either gaining or losing trust as they skim through content. They are still highly likely to jump ship any second.
  • Get a reader to stick around for >30 seconds, and there’s a good chance they will extend their visit, often to 2 minutes or more.

On average, customers spend 57% of their time reading the first screenful of a website, 17% of the next screenfull down from that, and 6% on the next.

We know those percentages can be improved upon because they already have improved over the years. 10 years ago, customers spent 82% of their time on the first screenful of a website. We have significantly increased the willingness of customers to continue down the page by improving best practices over the last decade.

Thanks to Nielsen Norman Group, the most reputable user experience research team in the world, we know that website clarity is a race. And it’s beyond clear that website engagement can be drastically improved by applying best practices from the disciplines of storytelling, design, user experience, and decision science. So let’s get started.

How To Win The Race

First Second – In the first fraction of a second, captivate your customer with a clean design, relatable imagery (aspirational images of your target audience), and a succinct headline that stands alone as a description of your offering. Establish serendipity. Make sure, in that first instant, your ideal customers can tell they are in the right place.

Seconds 1 to 10 – Super important! As business leaders, we suffer from “Curse of Knowledge” bias. We are experts in our domain, and it’s hard for us to separate the obvious from the complex aspects of our expertise. Also, we love talking about our solutions and we tend to lead with the solution—don’t do that!

Why? Your solution is complex and full of nuances that make sense to you, but are confusing to a customer. That’s your world. But your customer’s problems–boy, do they ever understand their own problems. That’s their world. Open with empathy. Bring the story to your customer’s world first, then lead them into yours.

There are five stories your customer can understand and they all open with empathy. Show your customer you understand an obstacle, vulnerability, disruption, aspiration, or experience that is important to them, and you will survive the first 10 seconds.

Seconds 11 to 30 – Plant the seed that a solution is available, and prove that you are an authority in providing that solution. Remember, we really want to cross the 30 second mark, so don’t bore your audience! Talk about their problem, engage them in a story that paints you as an authority and makes them curious about your solution.

Seconds 30 to 60 – Okay, go! Now you can talk about your plan to solve the customer’s problem. Remind them what’s at stake. If you’re a B2B, remember to share both how you can help the business and how you can improve the life of the buyer. Your plan isn’t just about the value you provide. It’s also about the experience you provide. The experience, for many, is a key differentiator that businesses forget to talk about.

Don’t forget to call your customer to action!

What next step does your customer need to take to buy from you? Schedule a Consultation? Enroll Now? Buy Now? Whatever it is, put that text on a button in the upper right corner of your website and inject it throughout your page so they never need to look far to find it.

Want help developing your brand or clarifying your message? Our BrandLab Message+ Workshop is fast and effective. We need 2-3 hours of your time for a tightly planned discovery session. We’ll turn around thoughtfully considered and researched messaging and brand elements in less than two weeks. Schedule a free consultation today.