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How To Retain First Time Visitors To Your Website

Everyone is trying to rank well in search engines so as to enjoy good amount of free traffic every month. But if you look at the server statistics carefully, you will notice that most people leave almost immediately upon entering the site. You cannot complain about your sales because the fact is that people in general do not like to stay in any sites for long. 
 
Remove The Clutter 
The basic rule in creating websites nowadays is to have as much content as possible so as to please the search engines. However, cramming too much content in a page without good techniques can scare your visitors away. This is also the common problem of most websites today. Research shows that people do not generally stay in a site for more than 30 secs but my personal experience tells me that it is 10 secs. The implication to this is that you only have 10 secs to pitch your idea and persuade them to stay. 
 
Reveal Some But Do Not Reveal All
An effective website must achieve 2 things within the 10 secs. A) The user must know what your site is about. B) The user must be motivated to stay and investigate further. 
 
To achieve A) cannot be done by lengthy stories. People are lazy and they do not like to read or scroll. So there must be an obvious sentence, catch phrase or graphic to tell them what your site is about. Once they are interested in your pitch, they will start reading the content. 
 
For the content, I would suggest you to write just enough to arouse interest. If all your stories are told within a page, then they do not need to navigate your site anymore. This is similar to watching movie previews. The preview has to excite the audience to pay and watch the full movie. If you can achieve B), you have a chance to make them stay and click on your links.
 
Guide The Eye To Important Content
People first look at the largest and boldest element on a page which is usually the logo, top banner or catch phrase as mentioned earlier. You should next direct the eye to the content. Text with highlighted headers can stand out prominently. The common technique to make a header obvious is to highlight the background of the header using a dark color and write the header text in white. Many popular portals such as msn and bbc are using this technique. White background on dark text is most effective for the main content because it has a very good contrast. 
 
Be Careful About Distractions
Remember the 10 secs rule. You do not want to distract your visitors within this time frame. Though advertisements are commonly used for marketing purposes, they are considered as distractions. Animated gifs is another type of distraction which can be very annoying. In fact, I do not encourage people to use animated gifs at all! If you really want animation, do a good job with flash instead. Unless your site is like Yahoo or Google, people will not bother to stay long if they are confused about what you are saying.
 
Use Images
Playing around with colours and layout in your site is not enough. You need identifiable graphics such as humans and objects to make your visitors feel comfortable. Many people are very scared of using graphics because they are worried about the downloading time. Valid point but you do not have to use big images. Images that are about 10 kb in size is a good guide. To me, making your visitors happier by making them wait a few milliseconds longer is a good deal. Quality images that describe your content are very effective. It also makes your site less boring and create visual stops for your content.
 
Conclusion
People are impatient and you really have a short time to make them stay longer in your site. The longer they stay, the higher the chance that they will buy your idea and use your services. The first impression is important and we all want it to be good.
 
About the Author
 
Sitecritic.net is formed by a group of web addicts, mainly volunteers from all over the world. Our goal is to create a community of web designers and developers who share the common interest in bringing out the best in creating effective web sites.

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