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FEATURED: Use the C.L.I.C.K. System to Assess Your Website

Posted on 2.20.2014

By Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist, 

There is a lot we still need to discover about the way people interact with Web pages, but one thing we know for sure is that they do not spend long assessing each page they land on. Indeed, research suggests that the initial decision as to whether to stay or click away to another site is made within the first second of seeing a website. 

In the real world, whether you sell products or services, you have plenty of time to engage your potential customer. You can ask questions and tailor your answers to provide information about exactly what they are looking for. You even gauge their body language to see if you are on the right track, adjusting things to make sure you suit their precise needs. If you run a brick and mortar stores, you have several minutes in which to engage the shopper, and you can control things like lighting, temperature, and even the smells, all of which can enhance sales.

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Online you have none of this. There is no time to ask questions and tailor-make your Web pages in response to questioning. Neither can you monitor body language to see if you are on the right track. Not only that, you cannot control the environment the visitor is in, so you can do nothing to enhance engagement.

All you have is a two-dimensional flat visual that has to grab people by the throat in less than a second. That’s tough.

So what can you do about it if you want to engage your visitors and keep them on your website for longer? You need to tap into their subconscious psychological make-up, which is really driving those instantaneous decisions. People are not lingering on your website for long enough to make thoughtful, conscious decisions. Most Web visits are “gut reactions” and so if you want to succeed online you need to harness those to your advantage.


The first almost instinctive subconscious reaction people have to a Web page is how “Convenient” it is. Psychological convenience is not just a straightforward “oh this is convenient” reaction. In psychological terms convenience is about reducing effort. Your brain uses around a quarter of your calorie intake each day and is programmed to help you minimize the effort you take in everything you do. Otherwise you end up using too many calories and you impact upon your survival. Your unconscious brain is spending lots of time trying to ensure you survive. So anything that increases effort is a “no-no”. For websites that means anything that make it more complex to use, that makes it much less obvious as to what it is, and that uses different standards to other websites is an immediate turn-off to the subconscious. Step one in assessing your website is to check its Convenience – how much effort is involved?


The next step is to assess how “Likeable” your website is. Online you can find lots of “Like” buttons and much of the time they are useless and meaningless. The only advantage in reality that they bring is the amount of personal data it adds to the vaults of services such as Facebook who can then better target things to you. Psychologically, Likeability is a two-way factor. You like your friends BECAUSE they like you. If you are attracted to someone but they do not return the favor the relationship goes nowhere. Websites that ask for “likes” are not building any kind of relationship in that first second of engagement – indeed they are sending a negative signal. In that first second, people are looking to see if your website likes them as a visitor. How much does your website truly demonstrate it likes its visitors? 


Step three is assessing your website for how “Informative” it is. One of the subconscious drivers of human activity is reducing risk; it is part of our survival instincts. In the brick-and-mortar world when we buy things we ask the sales person questions, or if it is a service we talk to the company and get as much detail as possible from them. Online, we like to see if the website has lots of information about the products it has on offer. If the information is sparse we cannot reduce our risks as much as our subconscious brain would like. That’s why websites with highly active blogs do so well – they demonstrate instantly a huge amount of information, which reassures the visitor.


The fourth thing to check on your website is how “Customized” it is. When we talk to sales people in the real world we feel they are only talking to us about our specific needs. But websites often try to be “one size fits all” which means that when people land on the pages they don’t feel “part of the clan” and so they click away.  Is your website written for a “group” or is it aimed at tiny, individual, highly fragmented markets? Websites that are targeted to very narrow niches tend to do better than websites aimed at wider marketplaces because they show the customer instantly “this site is for you”. The only exception to this are major, massive sites such as Amazon which achieve success through size and dominance – yet they also customize pages to individuals.


The final element in the bid to reach a website visitor’s subconscious is “Knowledgeable”. People only use websites they trust. Research on the psychology of trust shows that part of this is involved in how people perceive your extent of knowledge. If they think you know a lot (even if you do not) they tend to trust you. We prefer to buy from people we trust. Online this is translated into a quick assessment of the extent of your knowledge. Seeing that you are involved in trade associations or professional bodies impacts upon people, so does seeing that you are often requested for media interviews. Signalling these kind of things builds trust. Does your website shows it is “Knowledgeable”?

So there you have it; a five-step system to assess your website and how well it connects with your visitors inside a second. Is your website Convenient, Likeable, Informative, Customized and Knowledgeable?

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist and author of “Click.ology: What Works in Online Shopping” which provides an insight into consumer psychology and details The CLICK System.

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