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There are a lot of articles discussing the fact that users tend to leave a web page in a very short time. Anything from 10 to 30 seconds is what you can expect from a user - and that is generally bad. It's just a fraction longer than a politician has to bring forward her/his opinion before users interest starts to fall.

I could agree that the longer a user stays on a web page the more value it has to the user, and to the site objective (informing, selling, demonstrate, entertain,...). But there must be occasions where this short visiting time isn't valid. I'm thinking of News sites which can have many returning visits and short page visit time (per visit). The same could apply to a weather service, sport result pages and others, where users just need a quick look (and they know where, since they've been here before) and then move to a different site.

Should we be alarmed by short time page visits? Or more particular... Is a short stay on Web Page always bad?


Reference: How long do users stay on web pages?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Length of stay as a stand alone metric is a bit of a vanity metric.

How long someone is on a page doesn't really tell you much, generally.

It is what action they took before and after the page view that would give you some real insight.

For example, if after going to a category landing page a majority of your users bounce within 15-20 seconds, then it would be bad. It's bad because you want their next action to be selecting a product followed by making a purchase.

However if they land on that same page, stay for 15-20 seconds, and select a product, and a good percentage of them go on to make a purchase, then the length of stay is fine.

In either example the length of time as a stand-alone metric doesn't have much value.

Generally speaking, you should only be alarmed if the length of stay is paired with undesired user behavior.

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+1 For vanity metric. I didn't know it existed! –  Benny Skogberg Dec 6 '12 at 6:50
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+1 and another (if I could) for reading Tim's blog... –  Marjan Venema Dec 6 '12 at 7:24
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Yes. You optimise for the goal not the length of time. For example when building apps for intranets I'm generally trying to encourage people to complete their tasks as quickly as possible. Short times (that achieve the goals) are good. –  adrianh Dec 6 '12 at 9:32
    
indeed, a short stay is very good if the user achieved their goal. If your content is clear and / or your checkout process optimised then users could go through very quickly and very happy. –  Toni Leigh Jul 15 '13 at 18:06

It depends.

  • A Good, Short Stay is when the user gets their information immediately, like asking Google a calculator / dictionary question that the search page answers immediately.
  • A Bad, Short Stay is when the user gets overwhelmed by the site, decides it's not the right site, or they notice "malware-y" behavior like instant redirects, porn pop-ups, or other repulsive behavior.
  • A Good, Long Stay is when the user gets drawn into the site, makes an account, comments, and interacts with the site.
  • A Bad, Long Stay is when the user is forced to hunt for their information and plow through multiple screens (like those deceptive full-page ads between the end of an "online personality quiz" and the results). Think like being told there'll be a free vacation if you come to this event, when really you've just been tricked into sitting through a timeshare seminar.

Thus, whether or not a short stay is a bad thing depends on what the goal of your site is, and whether or not you've met that goal.

If your site is http://www.isitajewishholidaytoday.com/, you'd probably be worried if all your visits WEREN'T short. That said, most of the websites people will actually be paid to work on likely have a more concrete goal, like collecting email addresses, selling products, and encouraging discussion / interaction. That means they'll want to encourage longer site stays, but only because they encourage the desired action out of the user.

User behavior / goal completion trumps all other metrics. The amount of time users spend on the site is just a means to determining that.

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+1 For a very comprehensive answer. Nice! –  Benny Skogberg Dec 6 '12 at 6:53

If you have a lot of <30 second visitors it could mean two things, you either:

  • Didn't define the scope (audience, content, value proposition) of your website clearly, and your audience "bounces" a lot, or
  • Your information architecture is so good, that they find the information they're looking extremely fast (think about sites such as http://www.whatsmyip.org/ or even http://www.google.com )

So, NO, as it depends entirely on the actions you want your users to perform, or the metrics that you're being measured against, and asking yourself whether your average user should be able to complete that action before <30 secs.

Depending on how websites are being measured, visits <30 seconds are not always desired, as (generally speaking) you're supposed to have something valuable in your site that you want your visitors to remember you by, feel engaged and having them to enjoy its value. But if you make your money out of in-page advertisement (like a parked domain), you probably want your users to click-out (through an ad) as soon as possible, and you wouldn't care much about the time they spend on your website (especially if you're making good money out of it).

Metrics such as Bounce Rate and Average Time Spent on Site, are usually important for executives to spot whether the website is attracting enough and the right people, and if they do, to benchmark themselves against competitors or themselves in previous years. i.e. if your average time spent on page last year was 15 seconds, increasing the metric to 30 seconds is a huge improvement that you can boost about with your boss.

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+1 Good reasoning! –  Benny Skogberg Dec 6 '12 at 6:57

It depends on the goal of your site.

If you want to perform a specific service, then a short stay is good. Take www.google.com as an example. They actually are happier when you have a short stay as it usually means that you found the result you were looking for - and they use this as a metric.

If you show content, then a short stay is bad. A longer stay = more content consumed and usually more revenue for you. Amazon, eBay, Youtube are all examples where they want a long stay.

In general length of stay tells you very little unless you can show a clear link between it and something else that matters.

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