Embrace your Bounce Rate

Yesterday I had a fresh mind-blowing thought about Bounce Rates. Google defines a website Bounce as: “the percentage of visits in which users view only a single page of your site” – Yesterday for the first time I asked myself:

Why have I ever thought that this is a bad thing?!

For years I’ve heard people talk about bounce rates as something we need to bring down. It makes sense right? These websites need users, and we want to keep every user we get. I’m not even sure that this is an important goal!

When I’m surfing the web as a user I would say I’m a “big bouncer”. I like to think I’m a good judge of a website, and that I know what I want. I bounce from sites every single day for a variety of reasons:

  • I’m trying to find a site I’ve been on before and want to return to – and this isn’t it
  • Any time a site’s content is not in the format I’m specifically looking for: eg. I’m researching or problem solving, and this page is a forum, but I know I want content in an essay or tutorial format
  • I’m doing research and a site looks so sketchy that I don’t trust its information, or feel comfortable doing a financial transaction here
  • I want to read an article, but the post is broken across multiple pages, or some other annoying design deal-breaker

If you’re responsible for the site I just left: the first two are good-bounces, and the last two are bad-bounces that would quality as the kind of bounce you should try to reduce.

As far as the first two good-bounce examples go though: trust me when I say that my bounce was a good and intentional thing. You didn’t fail to retain my attention through some flaw: the design or format was clear enough to make it very apparent very quickly that I am looking for something else. Thanks! As a user I feel my time is valuable, and I don’t want to waste time on a site of no value to me.

So what about the sites we make as website producers? For years I’ve been building sites for clients intended to communicate and market products and services to users. It’s a completely valid message to let a user know “this isn’t what you’re looking for, bounce. I would argue that a well designed site with good user experience will have the truest and most meaningful bounce rate.

Google defines a Bounce as the users who only view a single page of your site. Why isn’t that a goal more often? Am I really going to be a better consumer of your services if you waste more of my time on your site? What if we changed the goal from lowering the bounce rate (by increasing page views), to make the site so efficient that all we needed was a single page? What if a new UX goal was “to get users who are outside of our demographic off of our site in less than 10 seconds”?

I’m reminded of the Windows phone promise to get us “in and out, and back to life”.

There are 2.8 billion users online. A small fraction of them will care about your client’s geographically specific business. Respect their time and bandwidth by helping them bounce as quickly as possible.

Not only do I think we need to put less emphasis on lowering the bounce rate, but I say the opposite: Embrace your bounce rate. A meaningful site departure is as important to User Experience as a meaningful site visit.


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