Longer or Shorter Visit: Which Is Better?

I was inspired to blog about this topic which a client asked during a phone conversation. He was looking through the statistics for his website and noticed that visitors didn’t stay too long on his website.

He sounded worried.

Now, most people would assume the longer a visitor stays on your website, the better. It means the visitor is getting to know more about you and your business.

I can tell you that we used to think that way too.

Until we realised that it was a load of baseless assumptions.

Because a visitor could also stay for a long time on your website IF he/she cannot find what they are looking for!

How Do You Surf? 

Now tell me, is this not true of your own web surfing habit?

If you cannot find something and assuming you believe the website does have what you want, you’d go on a treasure hunt, clicking here and there.

You go through pages and pages, sometimes because the website is so good and clever at hiding specific information!

So the visitor can spend 10 minutes at your website. And you think, wow, he is reading and ingesting every single word. He is probably the biggest fan of my products, right?

Nope. He could be cursing you and your awful website.

Or horror of horrors, he could be your competitor, coming around to check up on what you have on your website so he can increase and improve his own offerings.

A badly designed website, believe it or not, can be a possible culprit in making visitors stay much longer than they need to. Visitors can’t find the info they want so they go around on a wild goose chase, confused, on your website.

But how about a short visit? Does that mean your visitor isn’t getting what he wants?

Not exactly.

Why Short Isn’t Always Bad 

A short visit could go both ways too. It could mean the visitor finds the website NOT to his liking or it could mean the visitor has quickly found the information he was searching for.

If a website is designed to be clear as opposed to confusing, it is highly likely that the visitor found the information and was happy and then went away.

So if you’re a website owner, how do you know if the visitors who stay long are satisfied or not with the kind of offering at your website?

The easiest way – open your mouth and ask! 

It pays to be nosey and ask your customers each time you connect with them. Ask them their opinions about your website. Ask them if it is easy to find what they need on your website.

This is what I learnt while doing my Master’s academic research. While quantitative research gives you the numbers and percentages, it helps to conduct some form of qualitative research too.

Numbers can only tell you how many people did this or that but qualitative research (opinions, feedback, personal stories) gives much more depth and lets you understand more of the situation you’re dealing with.

It is best to have answers from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives because then you get the (whole) picture instead of seeing a partial or worse, skewed one.

How One Client Tracked Her Visitors 

A client surveys her walk-in customers and asks them where they’d heard of her company. She has a form to jot down their answers.

Over time, she realised that many of her customers had heard of her company online and visited her website first before contacting her. This information was useful feedback to us too as it gave us a glimpse of how our website design helped and in what way.

Another type of informal information gathering comes from meeting people. I’ve always enjoyed meeting people and inevitably our chats help me gauge how we are doing.

I met a new friend, Lauren, over lunch one day and she told me she enjoyed visiting a particular website to buy her baking supplies.

The website, she said, was clear, easy to navigate and totally engaging. I prodded further, upon which she said she initially searched online because she wanted to buy some cake flour and was surprised to find the website belonging to a business in Penang.

I let her describe what she liked and how she found it before telling (much to her surprise), that the website was designed by us!

Better still, it helps if your client happily tells everyone how happy she is with our work in a totally unsolicited way. That happened one day as I was lunching with a client and her friends and she told everyone at that table that she just had 5 orders (of an expensive product) from a customer who found her website online. It still cheers me up when I think of that unsolicited praise from the client.

So the long and short of it is: don’t automatically jump to conclusions when you view your website statistics.

Longer duration isn’t necessarily cool while shorter duration isn’t necessarily reasoning to raise the alarm. Poll your customers and ask the right questions to get the complete story.

Remember, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Get more details before you make up your mind.

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