I was reading an interesting old Wall Street Journal the other day on “stickiness” by Thomas Weber. Immediately, I saw in print what I’ve been thinking for years: It’s not how long you can keep a user on your site, it’s how well (or easily or pleasantly or enjoyably) you allow a user to perform a desired task.
Weber makes the point succinctly when he writes, “Sticky was stupid.” He explains that the industry’s push for stickiness has been in direct opposition to users’ needs. Stickiness, he writes, “tempts people to view a business through the lens of steering customers to do something rather than giving them what they want.” Which is exactly right.
The long-held notion of stickiness is that the longer any given user stays on your site, the better. This longer stay helps in collecting ad dollars, boosting sales, and upping the number of tasks performed on the site.
As Weber mentions, sites such as eBay, which succeeded because millions of users spent countless hours bidding and buying, helped perpetuate the notion that the length of the stay was related to the value of the business. “Community” became a battle cry as sites searched for ways to increase page views and time spent. It is definitely not enough to just tune-up your website a little bit to get your site ranking better in search machines. Just read this post what else you can do to be successful.
The reality is that just like in the real world, stickiness means success only to media-type content sites. The more news items read, the more videos viewed, the more minutes spent, the more ad revenue collected, and the more ad spend commanded. All very well and good. If you run an AdWords campaign, read also this article about the inside secrets of the AdWords Bid Management System.
If your site isn’t content-focused, stickiness can actually be a bad thing. Think about it: If I have a specific task that I would like to complete in 5 minutes and 10 pages and I do it in 4 minutes and 7 pages, I am happy. If it takes me 8 minutes and 15 pages, I am not happy and am probably looking for somewhere else to go the next time I need to complete that task. Most users visit your site for some reason. Your objective would be to make that visit as successful as possible. Stickiness for the sake of stickiness should not be a goal. Check out also this page that’ll show you some mindset shifts to help you get moving.
Investors and analysts still may be into sites that are sticky, but I think they’ll eventually figure it out. Stickiness is not a measure of success. My advice is to ignore them and focus on users and on what they need. Make this your mantra: If you build it well, they will come… for no longer than they have to and then leave happy. Remember that the tech millionaires, with all their dollars, were probably clever enough to understand this principle although I do have my questions as to whether they really deserve all their millions, after all.