Does the Website You’re Selling Pass the Eyeball Test?

By | September 19, 2011

Ah, the eyeball test: perhaps one of the most insightful – if not always 100% accurate – ways to evaluate a website’s prospects. An informal term, an “eyeball test” simple refers to the look and general presence of a commodity, a piece of property, or even a person.

Consider the person who comes to the job interview freshly shaven; they might pass an eyeball test that a grizzly, unkempt person fails. And when you consider social phenomena like the “Halo effect,” it’s important to maximize your visual strengths in order to express the most value.

For the website buyer at, of course, the eyeball test has another purpose: gauging the true value and potential of a website that’s listed for auction. While the eyeball test is the least formal of all your evaluation processes, it can be one of the most important ways of making an ultimate decision on your purchase. Here are a few ways to tell if a website does not pass an eyeball test.

1. Instincts. Let’s say you’ve been evaluating a website for a good amount of time. You checked out its general specs and numbers, evaluated its income, checked out its SEO presence, and feel good about the whole thing. Then you realized that you haven’t actually checked out the site itself. So you click over and….your heart sinks. It’s not a pleasant feeling, and there’s a reason for that: your instincts are telling you that the site you thought would be a good purchase might be a little more work than you initially thought. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the purchase, but you’ll definitely want to factor it in your decision.

2. Judging a book by its cover.The old phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is not so relevant in the Internet industry, where bad design flaws can cause a website to fail before it even launches. If you’re going to be good at the “eyeball” test, you need to strike a balance between judging a book by its cover and not placing all of your eggs in the basket of pure visual analysis. It’s a difficult balance, sometimes, but your instincts should usually win out.

3. Nothing looks right. If nothing looks right – from the way the website owner lists their domain for sale to the way the site actually looks – then the eyeball test should have a much more powerful influence on your ultimate purchasing decision. If, for example, a website owner does not have the skill necessary to produce a solid bid for their site, how sure are you that you want to buy anything from them, let alone a high-priced website?

It’s important not to place all of your stock in the eyeball test, but instead to use it as one of the variables in your approach to valuating domains. You can find more resources for discovering a website’s true value here – including free valuation tools – at