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Dear readers, I have moved to Substack and I will be writing here from now on:
In the meantime, I will leave up for posterity. Enjoy!

Your site will succeed or fail in the first 10 seconds

Go check your analytics right now!
When’s the last time you checked your analytics? If you’re serious about getting a site up and going, you should be glancing at it every day, and doing a deep dive every couple days. In fact, if you haven’t do it right now. If you’re a Google user, go to Visitors (on the left side), Visitor Loyalty, and then Length of Visit. You might see something similar to the diagram above – a bimodal distribution split between newbies that mostly leave your site, and people that stay on to use it. Note that the latter is often returning users, but also users that get hooked on the first try.

You have 10 seconds to catch someone’s attention
If you are driving a lot of new traffic to your site, you’ll often see a graph like the one above – in my case, the vast majority of the traffic is coming through Google organic and paid clicks. People either opt into your site or out of your site within the first 10 seconds. They’ll show up, glance at a couple headlines and head out, or if they like you, they might continue on and you’ll keep them for upwards of a couple minutes.

In fact, you could imagine that in 10 seconds, the user’s not doing much except for answering two questions:

  1. "What the heck is this?"
  2. "Is this for me?"

So the better you are able to help them answer these two questions, the more likely you will be to catch and keep them as a user.

5 ways to CONFUSE users and get them to LEAVE
Here are a couple great ways to do exactly what you don’t want:

  1. Presenting a portal as your front page
  2. Use lots of marketing speak
  3. Write everything in long-form text
  4. Make them register to do anything
  5. Treat every user the same

Okay, don’t do any of those. What do you want to do instead?

So the opposite of this, of course would be to:

  1. Present a simple initial interface – just convey the idea as quickly as possible
  2. Speak in their language, not your own
  3. Using pictures, video, and flash can be great! Just don’t overdo it
  4. Make it easy for them to get a taste without registering – give them progressive opportunities to trust your brand
  5. Target users differently depending on how they entered the site. If through search, then try to get them to the right content. If through a friend, show a picture of their friend and other friends.

Remember: you have 10 seconds!


IDEO has a great concept which they call the opposite of Deja-Vu. Deja-Vu is the process of seeing something for the second time (or thinking you are). Vu-ja-de is seeing something again, for the first time.

Check out your site, or your blog, or your Web 2.0 website, and guess what a user would do in the first 10 seconds. Then improve it until you can convey the simple idea quickly.

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