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6 Common user behaviors that affect your website’s success

Once you understand how people interact with websites, you’ll be ready to understand how to build a website that meets your goals.

One of the initial steps towards achieving your goals is understanding user behavior on the Web. In my continued studies in web marketing, psychology, and usability, I’ve come to learn six general things about user behavior, and I want to share these with you here.

1. Visitors use search engines (duh).

Everyone should know this already. If your visitors don’t have a direct link to your website, they’ll look for you via search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

2. Visitors have short attention spans.

In 2012, The Guardian (News) reported on the ever-decreasing attention span of the modern Internet user with the headline, “Say it quick, say it well.“ In that article a pew study reported the following:

… The current generation of internet consumers live in a world of “instant gratification and quick fixes” which leads to a “loss of patience and a lack of deep thinking”. In a world of instant gratification and where an alternative website is just a mouse click away, website owners need to find ways to first grab the attention of a user, and then keep it…

So, when visitors arrive at sites via search engines, they don’t stay for long because they have short attention spans.

3. Visitors don’t read most of the content on your page.

A study by the Nielsen Norman Group (an evidence-based user experience research team) showed that the average user only reads about 20% of the copy on a page. They said:

“We’ve known since our first studies of how users read on the Web that they typically don’t read very much. Scanning text is an extremely common behavior for higher-literacy users… our recent eye-tracking studies further validate this finding.”

So, when visitors decide to read your web page, they only read about 20% of the content.

4. Visitors quickly judge your site’s credibility by its design alone.

Stanford University started a research project called the Web Credibility Project in which they discovered:

“People quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone… When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more…”

So, how your website is laid out, its colors and design, play a big part in a visitor’s perception of the organization or company.

5. Visitors need direction when they come to your website.

Studies from the marketing research group MecLabs found if there’s no direction being communicated through the design of the page, people will leave the site. Many homepages suffer from this with too many options for the user to choose from and with no clear direction where to go.

6. Visitors don’t buy on the first visit.

This is true, not only for print advertising but for web advertising as well. I’m not sure who authored this quote, but it continues to resonate with me. It goes: “Consistency breeds familiarity, familiarity breeds confidence, confidence breeds trust, and trust breeds sales.”

So, because visitors will make a decision to buy over time, depending on your business, you shouldn’t expect a visitor to buy on the first visit.

With all that said, let’s recap our discoveries about user behavior:

  1. Visitors use search engines.
  2. Visitors have short attention spans.
  3. Visitors don’t read, they scan.
  4. Visitors judge credibility by design.
  5. Visitors need direction.
  6. Visitors don’t buy on the first visit.

Now that you have an understand basic user behavior on the Web, you are now ready to learn how to meet your goals through your website.