Using behavioral design to reduce bounce rate

It comes as no surprise that humans have terribly short attention spans. In fact, a study by Microsoft put a number on it: 8 seconds – less than the attention span of a goldfish. The implications for online marketing are huge. In a noisy and highly competitive online space, you either grab a visitor’s attention the moment they land on your website or lose them – possibly forever.

Bounce rate is an important metric for measuring how users engage with a website. It indicates the percentage of visitors who navigate away from your site after viewing only one page.

Think of the times when, as a web user, you visited a website and immediately headed for the back button. While the decision to exit the page may have been made unconsciously, the reality is that certain ‘unappealing’ elements on the website influenced that decision. This is the basis of behavioral design. The rationale is that if certain elements of a web page can drive users away, then there must be other characteristics that can make them stay.

Leading behavior scientist, BJ Fogg, has extensively studied how technological solutions influence behavior and outlines a three-step method for using design to change behavior. These are:

  • Getting specific about the desired behavior
  • Making it easy for users to reach that outcome
  • Using triggers to prompt the behavior.

If we apply this method to bounce rates, then the first step is clear. The goal is to get your site visitor to click another link. But how do you fulfill the other two obligations? How do you create an environment that encourages users to perform this action?  Here are three strategies to implement.

Improve branding

Fogg, along with other researchers, studied 2500 web users to understand how they assess a website’s credibility. They found that the average consumer paid far more attention to the visual design of a site than to its content.

Almost half (46.1%) of the participants judged a website’s credibility based on the ‘design look’. This includes the overall appeal of the visual design, the layout, typography and color schemes.

What does this mean for bounce rates? If users don’t perceive your website as credible, you’ll have a hard time getting them to stick around, let alone click on anything else on your site. Uniform and visually-appealing branding immediately catches the attention of a site visitor, especially if you’re a new brand.

Therefore, it’s important to have a brand identity with uniform branding – not just for your web pages (copy and color), but your entire web presence (including social media and landing pages).

Technological advances grant businesses of all sizes the ability to create their brand’s identity based on data. Tailor Logo, for instance, is a tool for generating logos/branding kits using dedicated machine learning algorithms that enable businesses to stay consistent in all the touch points where users may come across your brand.

In addition, the tool helps users develop the perfect typography for their branding through a series of carefully designed questions that provide insights into the brand’s identity and objective. Typography is critical for improving a visual design; a Nielsen study found that small font sizes and low-contrast are the number one complaint for web users as it relates to reading online.

Reduce cognitive load

Cognitive load refers to the total amount of mental effort required to complete a task that involves processing of information. In practical terms, this is the amount of mental resources users have to dedicate to be able to understand/process the information on your website.

Since the recent GDPR implementation, I’ve lost count of the number of sites where I’m bombarded with two or three pop-ups as soon as I land on the page.

This leaves site visitors with too much choice and too many tasks to perform. What should they do first? Accept privacy policies, read content, subscribe to your newsletter, or pay attention to the flashing ebook download? It’s not difficult to see why users will choose the easiest option – a quick exit.

What you should do is consider every page as a single entity and give some thought to what a user who visits a specific page might want to do. If it’s a blog post, then getting the information they need is likely the user’s main intent. So, do away with unhelpful pop-ups and focus on giving the user a seamless reading experience. Embedding the links to your lead magnets within the content could be far more effective in this context. If you must use a triggered opt-in form, have it come up only when the user attempts to exit the page.

Perfect your triggers

Revisiting Fogg’s three-step model, the last step is to provide a trigger for the desired behavior.  In this case, you want users to follow a link on your web page. This could be a glaring CTA button or a subtler link embedded within a blog post. But how do you make it easy for users to act on these cues?

Make the triggers relevant. Suppose a user reads an interesting blog post on how to write web copy and is interested in learning more techniques, but the suggested content and lead magnet on the blog post page are about data mining. What would be the logical next step for this user? Contrast that with a page with links to relevant copywriting content. It’s clear how this user will respond differently.

Place triggers in the right places. Understanding how users interact with spaces is important. If you haven’t heard of the F-pattern yet, then you should. The Nielsen group conducted an eye-tracking research, which revealed that people scan web pages and phone screens in the shape of the letter F.

The key takeaway is that for any piece of content, users pay the most attention to the first few paragraphs, then somewhere down the middle and finally take a few glances at the end. In other words, they scan – not read – information.

If you are hiding vital information in between large blocks of text, then that’s bad news. Readers won’t see it. Your content should be easy to scan so that readers can quickly find the information they need. This includes links to more relevant content, offers or contact information.

Conclusions

A good bounce rate is important for online success. By using insights from online user behavior to improve your website design, you can increase engagement, reduce bounce rates and ultimately improve conversion.

Pius Boachie is the founder of DigitiMatic, an inbound marketing agency.

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