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I love the five second rule

5 second rule

No, not the one about it being okay to eat food that’s been on the floor for less than five seconds. I have a dog so dropped food doesn’t last five seconds anyway!

This is my own made up, but very useful, five second rule to test the messaging on homepages.

This is how it works …

Pick up your phone and go to your website’s homepage. Pretend you are a potential client visiting your website for the first time. What can you see in the first five seconds?

What image?

What words?

What’s the message?

Is it abundantly obvious, to a stranger, what you do?

If not, why not?

What’s missing?

What’s unclear?

The point here is that when someone visits your website for the first time it should be immediately obvious what you do. You only have a few seconds (maybe not even five) to convince them that they are in the right place before they scroll on by.

These days we all have the attention span of a gnat and we are often using our phones while doing something else; glancing at the t.v., cooking dinner, telling our child where their P.E. kit is.

So, don’t try to be clever. This is not the moment to be arty or aspirational. It’s not your job to intrigue your visitor. Unless your website is releasing the latest iPhone or Beyonce album, your visitor is just not that interested. It’s your job to hit them smack between the eyes with your message.

So here’s a little checklist of do’s and don'ts.

Do have your logo/branding at the top of your homepage Don’t be original about where you place the logo. People expect it to be top right or top middle and that’s where they will look for it.

Do have a good quality, authentic image which clearly shows what you do or at least conveys your personality. A picture paints a thousand words remember. Your visitor will take in an image long before they start reading the text. Don’t have an aspirational image of something which is significant to you but means nothing such as the sun rising over a forest. Unless of course you are a lumberjack.

Do state clearly and succinctly what you do and who for e.g. contemporary website design for small businesses. Don’t have a meaningless motto. Don’t use long words, complex syntax or jargon. E.g. “Helping you become the quintessential professional you always dreamed of being but didn’t think you could be.” I’m sorry, what?

Do state your location. People search locally and prefer to deal with someone local even if that’s not really necessary. Don’t use vague terms such as North West England. Think what people actually search for. It’s usually a town or a county.

So there you have it. The five second rule.

Does your website pass the test?


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