I was recently part of a conversation where the group was discussing strategies for the placement of contact information on a website. While everyone agrees that contact info should be “easy” to find, opinions differ as to how “easy” is defined and measured. I decided to define the characteristics I think are important and conduct a study where I would measure them.
For this study, I’ve defined the “ease of access” to a company’s contact information as two components. First, the number of clicks, from the home page, it takes to get to a page where contact info is provided. And second, the amount of time it takes to find the contact info.
To normalize the results and make it easy for website-to-website comparisons, I did not include the time it takes for pages to load. In other words, the clock starts once the home page is loaded. From there it’s a matter of scanning the page as a first time visitor, finding contact info, or finding a link to access contact info. Again, the page load times were not included.
I looked at several websites, both non-profit organizations and for-profit companies, to glean some averages and establish a baseline for future conversations and decision-making. I only tested sites where I really was a first time visitor to avoid skewing the data.
For the websites tested, the average number of clicks to find contact information is provided in the chart below. The non-profit sites included organization like churches, museums, etc. The for-profit companies were a diverse group from window companies and auto repair shops, to lawyers, web designers, doctors and hobby stores. The non-profit site had a mean average of 0.63 clicks, with the most common (the mode) being 1 click from the home page. The for-profit sites had a mean of only 0.37 clicks, 41% less than the non-profits. Also worth noting, the mode (most common) for the companies was 0 clicks.
For the same websites, the average amount of time, in seconds, to find the contact information is provided in the chart below. The non-profit organizations had a mean time of 5.1 seconds, while the for-profit companies had an average of just 2.7 seconds, 47% faster.
Non-profit organizations do not consider easy access to contact info as much as for-profit companies when they design their site.
Given these results, one might conclude that the time required to find contact info on non-profit sites was longer simply as a result of more clicks. While that is certainly a major factor, another important characteristic was its placement. On for-profit sites it was often much easier to see contact info as it was set apart using color or a graphic, or changes in font size or style. In scanning a page for contact info, it really helps when it stands out right away. In some cases, I had to scan the page more than once before I found it, even when it was on the home page.
Although page load times were omitted in this study, it’s worth mentioning how annoying it is to wait for Flash intros and splash pages to load. It’s also distracting and annoying when videos automatically start playing. Don’t bother a potential customer with extra junk, or make them wait when they just want your phone number or address.
For-profit sites took an average of 2.7 seconds to find the contact info, but with many of them the phone number was at the top of the home page. In other words, it took 0 seconds and 0 clicks to find it. The phone number was often the very first thing that stood out once the page loaded. If being contacted is critically important to your business, you should consider doing something similar.
Ask a few friends or family members to visit your website for the first time and see how long it takes them to find your contact info. Then compare it to the averages I’ve provided. Ask them to comment on how well the info stood out and if it was clearly identified. Obviously, the fewer the clicks the better, but I think the total time required is even more important as it also includes the time to find links, plus the time to scan a page and identify the contact info.