People don’t “browse” the web

Back in the early days of the internet, when everything was new and exciting, we went to web pages just for the fun of it. We wanted to see what was out there. We went to websites for companies we had heard of, just to see what their site looked like. We “surfed” and “browsed” because it was fun.

The novelty is over.

With some exceptions, this is not how people use the internet anymore.

Now we go to a website to do something: to get some specific piece of information or to make a transaction.

In a recent post by Jakob Nielsen, the web’s top usability guru, he talks about how teens interact with web pages. We should pay special attention: this is how our potential, incoming, or current students are behaving. The bottom line is this:

They are looking for information. If they can’t find it, they become impatient and give up quickly.

Older people have more patience with web pages, but most of us behave essentially the same way. We are looking for information, not just browsing for the fun of it.

Don’t assume people will slow down to read on your page. Imagine someone will land on your page, scan it for maybe 4 seconds, and leave. What do you want them to get out of that 4 seconds? If they only got one idea from the page, what should it be?

Build your pages with that in mind and you will make the pages more interesting and usable for everyone, not just the passersby.