You know that restaurant down on the corner? Not the crowded place with the line onto the sidewalk. I’m talking about the quiet place next door – the place with dead flies in the window, and a sun-bleached menu taped to the inside of the glass.
You’ve been walking by that place for years but you’ve never gone in. I think we all know why.
If you’re like us, you’re thinking something like this: If the owner of that restaurant allows dead flies and an outdated menu in their front window, which everyone can see, then just imagine what horrors lurk in the kitchen! If they are failing to maintain appearances, what, we wonder, are their other shortcomings?
If they aren’t the kind of people who care about getting details right, what kind of lunch are they going to feed me?
Is it wrong to judge a place by the way you feel when you’re walking by? Maybe the food is secretly great! Maybe they are the nicest people in the world! And here I go walking by and forming an opinion about them in just three seconds.
It’s normal. We make snap judgements. Does this place look yummy? Or does it look like it’ll make me sick? Quick: make a judgement call and act on it! We do it all day long.
It’s how our brains are wired.
It’s not just food. Every salesperson knows that most purchasing decisions are made based not on facts or analysis, but on a gut, emotional feeling. A visceral response -- “This place feels right to me.” “I trust these people.” And we buy.
Or “something is not right here.” “Better try somewhere else.” And the business owner may never know about the sale they lost.
You see where we’re heading here. Because studies show that the same thing happens online all the time. And unless you’re tracking your website’s conversion rate, you may not even know it’s happening.
A study by Missouri University (2012) showed that when visitors arrive on a new website they make an initial assessment of the overall credibility and appeal of the site in the first 2.6 seconds.
That’s pretty fast. Let’s count how fast: “One, one thousand. Two one thousand. Three one—“ Done. Judgement rendered. Decision made.
That’s not enough time to read much text or compare pricing. That’s a gut reaction based on instincts: Does this place make me cringe? Or does it make me feel good?
The 3-Second Test
So how do you make sure your own website is working for you and not against you?
Search your feelings.
You know your customers. You know what they’re looking for. Pull up your website and take a look.
Do you think a casual passer-by – someone who spends 2.6 seconds on the page – is seeing something that truly represents the best you have to offer? Is it modern, attractive, well-lit, and clean? Does it make people want to open that door and come inside? Does it inspire a connection? Does it inspire … love?
If your own website makes you want to cringe, it’s time to sweep away those dead flies. Your website is out there on the street, representing you every day. More people see it than see any other part of your business. What is it saying about you?
Is it beautiful? Does it bring focus to you mission, showcase your good taste, and highlight your competitive advantages? Does your staff take pride in sharing it? Does it inspire passers-by to open up the door and come inside?