Does Your Company Website Pass the 5-Second Rule?

The credibility and purpose of your website are assessed in as little as five seconds time. That’s it. A cursory glance is all it takes for users to decide whether they might consider doing business with your company.

Poor navigation, cluttered pages, and slow performance can lead to snap judgments about the legitimacy of your offering and the long-term viability of your company. After all, the user reasons, if you can’t build a good website, how can you build a worthwhile technology product or company?

Yet so many technology start-ups undervalue the importance of their web presence. I’ve heard start-up CEOs say things like, “Our website isn’t great, but it’s okay.” Asked to expand upon these thoughts, the CEO might venture to say, “It might be a bit dated, and it’s hard to find some of the content, but it gets the job done.”

Let’s face it – people are both task-oriented and lazy. At best, they are willing to scan a web page for a few seconds. If they can’t quickly find what they are looking for, they will move on to the next competitor with a more than “okay” website.

The “okay” website mentality is perpetuated by the fact that most young companies don’t have mechanisms to measure and quantify the abandonment rate on their websites. As a result, they often underestimate the impact a poorly executed information design or content strategy may have on their business.

For one CEO, the threat of his “okay” website became crystal clear after a productive meeting with a prospective customer who announced in closing that he was really glad he came to the meeting but almost didn’t because he thought the company was on the verge of failure based on the state of its website.

After that meeting, you can be sure the website became one of the company’s top priorities. But looking back, the number of opportunities lost by the website was impossible to calculate. It was a sickening realization for this CEO whose top priority was growing the business.

Take an honest look at your website – what impression might a first-time visitor form of your company in 5 short seconds? As an extension of your brand, the website should reflect the same professionalism, quality of services, and leadership position your company represents. So does it?

While this list is not exhaustive, here are some questions you may want to consider as you take an objective look at your website:

  • Does the home page clearly state the position and purpose of the company?
  • Has the website’s design and functionality kept up with the times? Multimedia, such as videos, podcasts or webinars, social media networks, sharing tools, and live chat are prevalent today. Does your site include any of these communication tools?
  • Are services and products properly prioritized based on user objectives (versus a company view of how services should be presented) so that users are not overwhelmed by information?
  • Is it easy for users to find the information they are looking for regardless of the sales cycle stage—from interest to post-sales support?
  • Does the overall tone and voice of the site content speak to current and prospective customers in a way that is relevant to them?

If your website doesn’t pass the 5-second test, get to work on fixing it. The corporate website is often a company’s most tangible and visible face to the world. When properly executed, a website can become a powerful marketing tool that not only serves the needs of existing customers but also provides an opportunity to capture new customers.