3 Steps to a Website that Converts (in 5 Seconds or Less)

Starting a new Web project?

Before writing a line code or starting with a draft design, you should define in a clear and concise way how you are going to efficiently transform a simple website visitor into a new customer.

Conversion is the most important aspect of any Web project. Done wrong, it can result in low ROI at best… total failure of your project at worst.

Currently it is estimated that a person visits more than 80 new pages per month. You shouldn’t plan to be just one more among them.

crazyegg - placeitSource: Placeit.net

For a website that converts, you should differentiate your website and capture customers…

In less than 5 seconds

Why 5 seconds?

That’s exactly the time you have to successfully capture the attention of a new online user that visits your website for the first time.

In those few seconds, at most, an average user could read two lines of text, make a quick glance at the context (images, and logos, among others) and not much else.

It’s as simple as answering two questions.

First, tell readers in no more than 10 words, “What we do.” Below, quickly and concisely define, “How we do it.”

With that information, in just 5 seconds, users should have the information they need  to decide whether to stay on your website or leave by closing the window.

Let’s see this in more detail in a real and concrete example.

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In this case, it can be seen how in a line of text –with no more than 3 words—they described what it is that they offer and then, afterwards, in two lines as a subtitle, how they do it by describing their attributes and distinguishing features.

Now, in another example, we can see the same pattern even in a quite different field: an application that allows automatic publishing of news in social networks.

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This two-step process of answering Who and What is a general rule that can be applied in any vertical without any problems.

We have used this strategy to optimize a wide variety of websites: digital goods, loans, insurance, cell phone providers and online education.

And using this approach—focusing on “what we do” and “how we do it” in less than 5 seconds—we have improved our Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) by an average of 13.68%.

The importance of a professional design

Unfortunately, if you’re thinking of saving money just in the design of your Landing Page, you’re making a big mistake.

In our plugged-in world, your website may be the only point of contact you have with people. Unless you invest in a site that’s well designed and easy to navigate, you have little chance of converting visitors into customers.

The design not only makes your website “nice,” it also conveys something much more important: confidence, professionalism, and seriousness.

Remember those first five seconds we talked about above? Even before reading the first line of text (title), users can glean whether they are dealing with something serious (or not). All it takes is a single glance.

That’s the message being transmitted by your design, along with the dedication and hard work you’ve invested in your web project.

And here’s the scary thing: users don’t need to be experts to make that judgment. They are so used to seeing new online developments every day that they are already trained to discern the good from the bad.

All in all, you must invest in an experienced, professional designer, someone who knows how to convey your “What we do” message with images, videos and context, and to visually communicate consistency and reliability.

Without going any further, let’s see an example of what NOT to do.

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There’s no real focal point here. It is really difficult to know where to begin. So many things have been transmitted without any synergy and harmony that the user is more inclined to leave the website than interact with it.

Now let’s see another example, but now of what SHOULD be developed.

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When we started six years ago—with no budget for professional design—this was how our site looked:

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Now with a professional designer working for us, we increased our conversion rate by 18.31%:

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Always point the way

Lastly, once you’ve answered Who and What for your visitors and have supported it with great design, you must finally tell visitors how to proceed:

  • What should they do next?
  • What should they expect of the next step?

Where do you do this? At whatever point you ask for action. So, for example, when you show a form that must be completed or just a button that describes the action, tell the user what to do and what to expect.

Here’s an example you probably have some experience with. LinkedIn, after the headline that explains what they do, invites users to check in immediately by completing a form.

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One quick note: Your first customer interaction should not be always through a button or form. More important, if your startup process takes more than one page, you need to include a status bar to show users where they are in the process and how much remains to be done.

This can be accomplished successfully by just dividing the process into steps and describing every interaction and stage, as can be seen in the example below (3 simple steps, from consultation to expected result).

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As can be seen in the image, you need to let people know where they are in the process, what is needed to complete the process, what they need to do at each stage and, more importantly, what they will get as a reward after all the work and time spent.

Over the years, we have learned that the sense of “immediacy” is increasingly important to the Internet user. Few customers are willing to spend time on a registration process or consultation.

Consequently, the fewer fields they have to fill in and the fewer questions we ask, the better our conversion will be. As a recommendation, always try to give answers before asking information to the users.

First and foremost, let’s show that we have something of value to offer.


Cristian Ángel Rennella is a Computer Engineer professor from the Catholic University of Argentina. He is also cofounder at MT México, online service startup specialized in service comparison. Connect with him on Twitter.


  1. Well, yeah it is just about common sense and clear call to action. Of course it very much depends on the website and content, but landing page is always very important.

  2. Keep posting the good work.Some really helpful information in there. Nice to see your site. Thanks!

  3. I love the “good vs bad” examples. That kind of tutorial type article always gives me the most information and insights. I can look for myself and see what you are pointing out but also I sometimes get even more out of it from my own analysis. Thanks for the great examples and reminder of the 5 second rule. BTW, I have seen a couple of articles that suggest you may only have 3 seconds to capture your visitor’s interest which makes this all the more important.

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