Time is the currency of the web

Posted on March 16, 2010 by Lisa

Time is the currency of the web. Whenever someone visits your website they are spending their time. They are investing in your website with the hope of a good return on their investment. Failure to deliver on that promise can have disastrous consequences.

When you visit an ecommerce site and find yourself going around in circles or taking an inordinate amount of time to find what you are looking for, are you inclined to spend your money with this company or do you look elsewhere?

When people arrive at your website, they start spending their currency – time. If people feel they are not getting good value for the time invested they leave and may never come back. Think of a store you’ve been to where you couldn’t get a sales person to help you or you couldn’t find what you were looking for. You may have just left and gone elsewhere. That is why it is critical to understand the top tasks people are trying to do on your website and facilitate your visitors in achieving their tasks as quickly as possible.

People who see a good return on their investment will spend more time to develop a relationship with your website and as a result spend more money and be more productive. Consequently, you need to carefully measure and test your visitors’ experience to ensure their time spent is productive, rewarding and impactful; not spent manipulating tools, interface mechanisms, or navigating long paths of confusing links.

Hotel websites used to show you pictures of their hotel and rooms on the home page, now they let you book the room right from the home page. You need to determine your equivalent top task to “book a room” and put it front and centre. Task management is all about understanding what is the minimum expenditure required for visitors to complete their tasks and get good value for their investment.

Don’t ask for input that is not perceived as relevant by your customer. Never ask for the same information more than once. Save them time by building the relationship – remembering key information that can be used next time to help them achieve their task faster (e.g. one-click checkout on Amazon.com). Simplify forms. Remove excess clutter. Use link labels that match your customers’ language.

The winner is the website that can provide the highest return for the least amount of time spent. It’s not about keeping people on your website longer. And, it’s not always about getting more page views. It is about giving your visitors a good return on the time they invest. Ideally the top tasks should require no more than one or two page views and less than a minute to complete.

Visitors to your website spend a very valuable and finite resource—time—ensure they invest wisely. Measure the time they take to complete top tasks.

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