Small Business Q & A: Does Your Website Induce Seizures?

Dec 17 22:00 2003 Tim Knox Print This Article

Q: We promote our web site in all our ad ... but ... my website ... program, we are getting very few ... click past the first page. The site has a cool Flash ... th

Q: We promote our web site in all our ad campaigns,Guest Posting but according
to my website statistics program, we are getting very few visitors
who click past the first page. The site has a cool Flash intro
page that the designer said would impress visitors, but it doesn't
seem to be working. What can we do to get people to spend more
time on the site?
-- Christopher O.

A: The first thing you should do, Christopher, is find that designer
and beat the living Flash out of him. It won't increase the time
visitors spend on your website, but it will make you feel better
after you've read this column.

What your designer thought would appeal to visitors is probably
the very thing that is driving them away. A Flash introduction
page (Macromedia Flash is a software program used to create
animations for Web pages) may seem "cool" to you, but from a
website visitor's point of view, they can be about as appealing
as sitting in the front row of a Pokemon movie with four hundred
screaming six year olds (and here comes the segue, folks).

In December, 1997, during an episode of Pokemon, the popular
Japanese TV cartoon that has spawned everything from movies to
action figures to lunch boxes, a scene featured a rocket explosion
that flashed red and blue lights in rapid succession. After the
episode, over 600 children were taken to hospitals complaining of
seizures, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Any
adult who has ever been exposed to Pokemon for more than two
seconds can understand the nausea, but the seizures at first
baffled doctors. Scientists ultimately came to attribute the mass
reaction to "photosensitive seizures," which are brought on by
exposure to certain visual stimuli like rapidly flashing lights
on a TV screen. Remember when your mom told you not to sit so
close to the TV or you'd ruin your eyes? Turns out she knew what
she was talking about. Who knew?

The event caused such concern that Japanese broadcasters and health
officials met to discuss ways to prevent future occurrences of
bad-cartoon induced illnesses. They established guidelines for
the broadcast of flashing images: no image may flicker faster
than three times per second; flashing images should be displayed
for no more than two seconds; and stripes, whorls, and concentric
circles should not take up the largest portion of a TV screen.

It's my humble opinion that these rules should apply to websites
as well. I've been in the Internet design business for nearly a
decade and I have been witness to numerous websites that could
induce photosensitive seizures in blind moles. It sounds like
your website might be suffering from a similar ailment.

If visitor's are not clicking past your fancy Flash intro page,
you don't have to be a genius to figure out that therein lies
your problem. Remove the Flash intro page for a few weeks to
see if your website's click-through rate improves and the number
of page views increase. "Click-through rate" refers to the
number of visitors who click links on your homepage to go deeper
into your site. "Page views" refers to the overall number of
web pages that were viewed by visitors. If click-through and
page view rates improve, you'll know that the Flash intro was
your problem.

Here are a few other things you can do to make sure your site
offers visitors a pleasant - and seizure free - browsing

Sit In The Visitor's Chair
The best way to make sure your website is as user friendly as it
can be, is to sit down at a computer and approach your site from
a typical visitor's point of view. Try to imagine that you are
seeing the site for the first time. If you are unable to do this,
have a friend who has never seen the site click around and offer
comments while you take notes.

Have your friend assess the following points: Is the site appealing
to the eye? Are the colors pleasing and complimentary? Is the
site easy to navigate? Are the topical categories and subcategories
in logical order? Is it easy to find what you're looking for?
Does the site have a search engine to make finding things easier?
Is every feature of the site less than two or three clicks away?
If the answer to any or all of these points is no, you have some
work to do.

Don't Dictate Technology
One sure fire way to repel web site visitors is to require that
they have special browser plug-ins or 3rd party add-on browser
software installed to view your site. Dictating that the user
download and install software is not your place and users will
resent you (and your business) for it. Visiting your site
should be an effortless pleasure, not a technological chore.

Don't Make Them Wait
If your homepage takes longer than 20 seconds to download (appear
in the visitor's browser) you are losing visitors, period.
Gratuitous animation, large graphics, poorly formatted HTML,
bad page layout, and a number of other factors can increase
download time. You might have the greatest web site in the world,
but if it takes ten minutes to download no one will ever see it.

The lessons to be learned, then, are threefold. One: a website
should be designed to satisfy the visitor's needs, not to pacify
the site designer's ego.

Two: visitors to a business website are not there to be awed and
entertained. They are there looking for information, and unless
you give it to them quickly and effortlessly, they will go
elsewhere to get it.

And Three: for better mental and physical health avoid Pokemon
at all costs.

Here's to your success.

Tim Knox
For information on starting your own online or eBay business,

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About Article Author

Tim Knox
Tim Knox

Tim Knox as the president and CEO of two successful technology
companies: B2Secure Inc., a Web-based hiring management software
company; and Digital Graphiti Inc., a software development company.
Tim is also the founder of, an ebusiness
dedicated to the success of online entrepreneurs.

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