How to Pass the Blink Test?

blink test

Will your website or product pass the crucial Blink test or will it suffer the cold fate of being ignored and bypassed despite its deeper merits?

First impressions really do count and failing to grab attention or to spark interest in those first few seconds can be fatal to a company’s success.

In his best-seller, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell outlined the concept of ‘thin-slicing’: how humans use limited information to make spontaneous decisions. He argues the conclusions drawn in those first few seconds are as accurate, or even superior to, the conclusions drawn at the end of carefully planned and considered analysis.

Gladwell does admit the accuracy of our thin-slicing can be corrupted by our likes and dislikes, (even if unconscious), and it can be overloaded by our preferences, prejudices and stereotypes. In contrast though, he argues reasoned analysis can be clouded or even overwhelmed by too much information. He adds that in this era of information overload, experts often make better decisions in a snap judgment than they do with volumes of analysis.

Of course, there are critics of Gladwell’s thesis. Isn’t there always?

While it may not be the full story, the Blink proposition does raise some extremely interesting questions:

  • What first impressions do you create?
  • In those significant first moments will you convince a reader or customer to spend any further time considering what you have to offer?

Luckily handy tools exist and they can address this problem. Google Analytics measures the bounce rate for your website and can provide metrics on whether people are interested or you lost them in the first impressions stakes. Google define a bounce rate as “the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page”. This metric can be used to measure visit quality with a high bounce rate generally indicating the page is failing to capture attention.

Of course, there will be variability according to the type of product or website you are running and it is important to compare apples with apples. Here is a rough guide on the bounce rate by industry.

The other reason why a low bounce rate is so crucial is that is so darn hard to get anyone to come to your site or to show interest in your product in the first place. Squandering the opportunity is a tragic waste.

There is a misconception about the web. People refer to surfing the web as though we all sit there clicking through endless sites each time we log on. Our clicks may stray from time to time when a particular topic or idea snares our interest. In general though, we stick to the sites we know, trust or enjoy. The rest of the web matters little from a traffic point of view.

We may end up on some remote site after clicking a link or following a search. But, what are the chances we will ever return or that the site will soon be forgotten. A glance or a quick skim reading of the first paragraph and click… we’re off again. Never to return!

That is a really grim fact if you are an isolated minor website struggling for recognition on the edge of the digital universe. How easily can your site be ignored as it drifts into oblivion?

Here is the essential truth. We each have our own web – a web of our individually preferred sites. The places we enjoy visiting and where our browser is regularly directed. It has been suggested that an individual’s web may be as small as 20 sites that they regularly visit. The number has no great accuracy. Some will regularly view less sites and other voracious readers may visit more. You can be certain though that regardless of how widely someone forages, it will comprise nothing more than an infinitesimal fraction of the number of sites out there hoping and wishing to be ‘discovered’ as the next big thing.

Viewed from a single person’s perspective, the rest of the worldwide web is a vast void where a sporadic foray will be scattered between countless sites – possibly with a barely discernible pattern. Thus these personal webs are unique to each of us and are as varied as our individual personalities. Even a single individual’s preferences will vary further due to the person’s mood or needs from day to day.

The common web is therefore a few core sites that attract the majority of our online attention. Facebook and Google are  prime examples and a large chunk of the entire web’s traffic is dominated by the top 15 Web 2.0 sites. Once those major sites are excluded, the flow of web traffic to other sites is incredibly disparate.

Accepting this reality should light a fire under any marketer. The arrival of a visitor is a very special event. It should never be taken for granted and the benefits of that visit should be maximised. Otherwise, one blink and they will be gone.

Photo by _star_dust

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About Mark Toohey

Mark Toohey is an experienced commercial lawyer who has worked with both major law firms and as general counsel in the media, telecommunications, software and IT industries. He has been a lawyer, company director, marketing director, company secretary and entrepreneur. Mark's commercial experience extends way beyond the theoretical. He has helped launch a number of start-up businesses and his hands on experience was gained from negotiating and documenting deals for a wide variety of business initiatives.