Saturday, May 24, 2008

BBC story highlights web users' "impatience"

Great little story today from the BBC about the results of a study by "usability guru" Dr. Jakob Nielsen:

[P]eople are becoming much less patient when they go online.

Instead of dawdling on websites many users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.

Most ignore efforts to make them linger and are suspicious of promotions designed to hold their attention.
I've seen some recent research showing that the average website visit lasts only 60 seconds, with an average of 3 clicks per visit. I strongly believe the growth of broadband is part of the reason web users leave pages so quickly. In the dial-up days, the comparatively high degrees of difficulty and failure associated with accessing the Internet made us a little more methodical with time spent on the web. We were less likely to move around from site to site because we knew that would mean waiting for our connection to catch up, then waiting for content to load. Today, we treat our mouse like a remove control, rapidly moving from site to site at a whim (a big reason why both Internet Explorer and Firefox added tabs so that users could toggle between multiple sites during the same session).

For marketers, this presents significant challenges since users are far less likely to see and interact with web ads and promotions. The BBC story explains:
[W]hen people go online they know what they want and how to do it, he said.

This makes them very resistant to highlighted promotions or other editorial choices that try to distract them.

"Web users have always been ruthless and now are even more so," said Dr Nielsen.

"People want sites to get to the point, they have very little patience," he said.

"I do not think sites appreciate that yet," he added. "They still feel that their site is interesting and special and people will be happy about what they are throwing at them."

Web users were also getting very frustrated with all the extras, such as widgets and applications, being added to sites to make them more friendly.

Such extras are only serving to make pages take longer to load, said Dr Nielsen.

All of this is very important to remember when building your website. Be sure to use tools like Google Analytics to see what pages on your site are generating traffic so you don't invest a lot of time and money on underperforming pages. In fact, those pages probably should be cut altogether. It's easy to fall in love with your content and put everything on your site, but be sure to make the most high priority information easy to find. And skip the gimmicks.

Photo: hberends on stock.xchng

No comments: