Think about the white stripes. It’s been many years since I’ve thought about the white stripes, when I used to literally make the highway paint at Sherwin-Williams during the summers of high school and my freshman and sophomore years of college. The white stripes I’m talking about are those dividing the lanes of traffic going the same direction down a freeway. Do you know how long those highway/freeway stripes are?
How long are those highway stripes?
After many years of research, psychology researcher by the name of Dennis Shaffer of Ohio State University did a study that appeared in the journal Perception & Psychophysics, where he asked students from all across the nation that same question. The most common response to his question was two feet. If your answer was two feet or slightly longer, your answer would be very, very wrong.
Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic — Why We Drive The Way We Do And What It Says About Us, says that if your car is ever broken down by the side of the road and you are forced to get out of your vehicle you will begin to notice how strange and uncomfortable the landscape is. The roads signs for example are huge, they were not meant to be experienced by humans on foot but at 70 miles an hour. If you were able to get out of your car and walk from one end of the stripe to the other you would notice how long they are. Current Federal Highway Administration Guidelines suggest a length of 10 feet with 30 feet between the dashes. Remember most people in Shaeffer’s study said those stripes were two feet long!
This goes to back to a fundamental point that Vanderbilt makes, that when you are in a car at high speeds you are only experiencing a sense of the landscape rather than the actual landscape. This kind of sense of landscape is presented to us to make us feel comfortable and to make the highway work. Most of what is happening is people are paying attention to the visual messaging of the road not to their speedometer. They are behaving as the engineers planned, creating a sensory experience for the comfort of how the road was built.
Does your website behave as the engineers planned it?
Just as every road has a story and experience, so does every website. It’s a perennial question, how long will visitors stay on your web page before leaving? The answer has always been the same. Not very long. For those who want stats, the Nielsen Norman Group, an evidence-based user experience research company says, “Users often leave web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer because visit-durations follow a negative Weibull distribution.” I won’t get into the reliability-engineering concept of Weibull, you can do that by clicking here if you would like. What I want to explore is the question, does your website behave as the engineers (you) planned it?
Every Website Tells A Story
The chart below illustrates the recent analytics dashboard of one of our customers at AscendWorks. Here we are analyzing the average time on the site compared to the number of visitors from December 17, 2012 to January 13, 2013. This is what the chart tells us. On December 24 we had a low of 139 visitors compared to December 15 where we had 535 visitors. The dark blue line illustrates the average time spent on the site which ranged from a low of 2 minutes 40 seconds to 3 minutes 27 seconds for the high. This is by far above the national averages. Why?
It’s All In The Details
There are several factors that go into building a website built for speed and one that creates a memorable experience. Following are a few of the details you do not want to leave out:
- Create memorable content – Content is king! Google is looking at your content more than ever and directing that content based on your customers search preferences, location, search history, etc. Now more than ever to compete you must create content that people want.
- Design to nurture – If you are not visible you are invisible. You must deliver valuable content to your customers that they want. This means you must have systems designed to deliver content 24/7 and capture relevant metrics that help you know what is of value to your audience.
- Build for speed – Make sure your website is fast and easy to navigate. Don’t make a person wait for a page to load. Here is a good test to run on your website.
- Tell a great story – Does your website tell a story that is memorable? Does a person easily understand what you do? Can they engage you 24/7?
- Guide the experience – Do you help your customer take the next step? Is that next step designed so that it is simple and easy to engage?