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Module 2: How to Plan a Website That Sells
Section 2: Your Customers and Your Website
Post 2: The Most Valuable Space on Your Website
The most valuable space on your website is closely related to the amount of time you have to make a first impression. As we discussed in the last post:
- a visitor starts to from their first impression in a split second
- within three seconds, they focus on the element which will fully form it
So you have to showcase your most important elements. By that, we mean things like your:
- Navigation menu
- Search Box
- Main image
- Compelling value proposition
- Call-to-action (related to your site’s purpose)
You’ll want to place these most important elements in a prominent position – the area above the fold. Research shows…
Website visitors spend 80% of their time above the fold.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, “above the fold” is a carry-over from newspapers. It’s the upper half of the front page – where the most important story of the day goes.
In web terms, above the fold means the area visible without scrolling. Yes scrolling is becoming more acceptable. But most people still make snap decisions based on what shows up on their screen with no further action.
If your business is like most, your Home page will get more hits than any other page of your website. Which means…
The area above the fold on your Home page
is the most valuable space on your website.
So make your case, powerfully yet almost pithily. And remember – you don’t have to tell the whole story. You just have to spark curiosity or make an offer they can’t refuse.
Conventional trumps creative
There are an infinite number of ways to design a website and the pages on it. We’re going to talk about the ones which have been demonstrated to work best.
Like the grocer we talked about in the Overview post of this Module, you want to…
Give your website visitors what they want
as you guide them to do what you want.
According to research by Gazehawk – when someone lands on a page of your website, they initially focus on the center of the screen. In a split second, most people tend to move up and to the left as shown in this diagram:
From there, they go in one of two directions. They either keep moving up and to the left or they move down and to the right as this diagram shows:
As Google discovered, visitors love simple and familiar when it comes to websites. Remember – no matter how popular your site may become, people will always spend way more time on other people’s sites.
Couple this with the eye pattern studies we’ve mentioned and you can understand why conventional layouts outperform creative ones.
Placement in the most valuable space on your website
You want visitors to quickly grasp what you and your website are all about. Then they’re more likely to stay longer and take the action you want.
Most visitors won’t read all the content on your Home page. They’ll survey it.
You want to capitalize on their natural eye movements as they view your site.
So let’s look at a common yet effective website layout method. It divides the screen into four areas:
Notice the pattern of movement forms a Z. We’re showing you a combination of two design theories here: the Gutenberg Diagram and the Z-Pattern layout.
Picture the above the fold area of your Home page. As we discussed earlier – when visitors arrive, they move up and to the left from the center.
This is the Primary Optical Area. You’ll want your most important content here – your compelling value proposition (CVP).
From there, they scan to the right. It’s the Strong Fallow Area. This is a great place to put images which support your content.
Next, they’ll move to the Weak Fallow Area. This is the place to put things like the CVP boosters or a secondary call-to-action.
Finally, they move to the Terminal Area. Your call-to-action should be clearly visible here.
So what about pages other than the Home page? How can you get people to see what you want them to see there?
Your website visitors get an “F”
Most people read left to right. So not surprisingly, the left side of most pages gets more attention than the right. Research from the Nielsen Norman Group shows:
As you can see in the diagram, users spend 69% of their time on the left side of the page – over twice as much time as on the right side.
And with one important exception (which we’ll talk about in just a minute), they don’t actually read. They scan.
They do so in an F-pattern as illustrated in these eye-tracking studies from the Nielsen Norman Group. This first one is an About page on a corporate website:
To help you understand what you’re seeing with these heatmaps:
- red = the most viewed areas
- yellow = the next most viewed
- blue = the least viewed
- gray = no views
Let’s look at one more. It’s a Product page on an ecommerce site:
Now put your hand over one eye, squint and focus on just the red areas. You should see a roughly formed “F”. That’s why this is known as the F-Pattern.
So the first few words in each line are more important than the ones that follow. This is especially true near the top of the page.
Important images should be placed on the left as well. For example, your product photos should be at the top, on the left.
There is one notable exception – buyers. They read. They want as much information as they can get, especially if your products or services sell for a relatively high price.
So you need to unlearn something we were taught in school. We were told to introduce the topic, spell out its main points and then show our conclusion.
For the web, you’ll generally want to start with your conclusion. End with your call-to-action.
In the next two posts, we’ll talk more about images and copy. You’ll see what your customers want from these two kinds of content.
You’re ready to move on. So you have a simple choice to make. You can either go through Part 2 of the Your Customers and Your Website Guidebook or dive into the next post. (We recommend the former as usual, but it’s completely up to you!)
Of course, if you do have any questions, email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.
The Most Valuable Space on Your Website