I want you to think about all the strangers you encounter on a day to day basis. You silently observe these people in the line at a restaurant or on your commute to work. Most of them you never interact with, but you make snap decisions about these people. It is impossible to actually know them, so you are forced to evaluate them based entirely on the tiny fragments you observe. Most of us are pretty good at this. We can make educated guesses about a person’s age, income level, education, lifestyle, religion, and a host of other things based on little more than a glance in their direction.

The same thing is true online with how people evaluate your business based on the design of your website. In fact, research shows that the average internet user will decide in a fraction of a second whether or not your website is trustworthy. This is especially true with visitors coming to your site from a search engine. A person coming from Google knows what they are looking for and they won’t waste time on a site that they perceive as untrustworthy or that they can’t quickly evaluate. If you rely on your site as a sales tool (and who doesn’t?) the design of your site is critical to your success. Visitors who leave your site just as quickly as they found it in Google are no better than no visitors at all.

Since the majority of your site’s traffic knows nothing about you, you only have one chance that lasts about one second to captivate them. If you fail to pass their sniff test they will leave and your site has failed. Hopefully you are seeing how critical design is to the success of your site! Like almost everything online, the time a person spends on your site can be tracked. The next time you are browsing your site’s traffic logs keep an eye out for the following terms:

Bounce Rate: The percentage of users who exit your site without visiting any other pages on your site.

Length of Pageview: The average time spent on each page

Depth of Session: The number of pages viewed per visit

Length of Session: The time spent on your site during one visit

Each of these numbers give you a way to evaluate lost traffic. Once your eyes are opened to the potential leaks of your site you can start taking steps to make sure your site’s design is performing to it’s maximum potential.

How do you convince a visitor in a split second that your business is reputable? There are a myriad of factors that add up to a “trustworthy factor,” but I believe that they can be summed up pretty will with the following questions:

Is the site easy to navigate?

Does the site load quickly?

Is the content well organized and easy to read?

Does the site provide a consistent experience?

Does the site look professional and well branded?

Are there any intrusive elements that detract from a user’s experience?

Is the site unique and memorable?

Is the design appropriate for the intended audience?

Is the content valuable?

At the heart of each of these questions is a design issue. In the coming weeks I will be tackling these questions one at a time and describing how careful design decisions help comfort your visitors and encourage them to “trust” your site. That in turn will increase sales and decrease bounce rates.

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