The Web is not free. It charges customers their time. Successful websites deliver the most value for the least time.
Google is the benchmark for success on the Web. Google is obsessed with time. Your time. Google is all about helping you find stuff quickly. Practically everything Google does has speed as a priority.
There are now voices within Google that say that how fast a website loads should have an impact on its ranking. "Historically, we haven't had to use it in our search rankings, but a lot of people within Google think that the Web should be fast," says Google's Matt Cutts. "It should be a good experience, and so it's sort of fair to say that if you're a fast site, maybe you should get a little bit of a bonus. If you really have an awfully slow site, then maybe users don't want that as much."
Google's search engine understands the web customer much better than, say, the Microsoft Bing search engine does. Who on earth in Microsoft decided that it was a good idea to have a great big 'branding' image on the search page? What on earth have pictures of baby whales got to do with a search for "cheap flights new york"? This is classic old-school brochure-design marketing thinking.
Old-school marketing is about getting customers to do things. Web marketing is about helping customers do things. There's a world of a difference. There is a school of marketing that sees the customer as irrational and therefore easy to manipulate. This school is constantly trying to come up with clever ways to make more money by fooling customers.
Bernardo A. Huberman came up with one of these classic old-school marketing strategies in his book, The Laws of the Web, where he advised organizations to design a website that "changes its link structure to lengthen the path traversed by a given user, thereby making him visit many more pages. For example, if a short route (in the number of clicks) exists to a given page, one may wish to turn that off if the user is statistically likely to visit more pages in between."
On the Web, the game has changed. The power is now with the customer, not the organization. The Web is a rational space. It is where customers go to make better decisions, get better deals, solve problems, connect with others, make their opinion heard.
Recently, I watched a branding expert practically jump up and down on stage shouting "people are irrational, people are irrational." He was all about finding subliminal tricks to influence behavior. And he told us in hushed tones that he had come up with a brilliant idea for websites. Use sound! Yes, when someone visits your website, this branding expert would have a jingle play, with a warm, sexy voice saying "Welcome to our website."
According to traditional branding theory you are so irrational that all a website has to do is play a sound and you will go all warm and fuzzy and buy their most expensive product. The Web is a rational space. We're not fooled so easy. And we don't like spending too much of our time.