Pass the 30-second, 10-second and 3-second tests
Visitors spend less than four seconds on 25% of the web pages they visit, according to a study by University of Hamburg and University of Hannover researchers.
Those visits peaked at two to three seconds.
That means that within two to three seconds, web visitors decide that about a quarter of the pages they visit aren’t right for them.
But the longer web visitors stay, the longer they’ll stay.
Should I stay or should I go?
If you can get your visitors to spend 10 seconds on your web page, they’ll likely stay longer. And the longer they stay, writes usability expert Jakob Nielsen, the longer they’ll stay.
To learn that, a researcher named Chao Liu and colleagues from Microsoft Research crunched the numbers on page visit durations for more than 200,000 web pages over nearly 10,000 visits. They learned that the amount of time users spend on a web page follows a “Weibull distribution.”
Easy for them to say.
Weibull is a reliability-engineering model that’s used to analyze the time it takes components to fail. Given that it’s worked fine until now, the model says, it will likely fail at X time.
Most web pages age “negatively.” That is, the longer visitors stay, the longer they’re likely to stay.
1. Pass the three-second test.
Hook visitors within two or three seconds. The first question readers ask when they land on a page is “What kind of page is this?” Is it:
- A list of products they might want to buy?
- A forum that might answer their question?
- An article with information they’re seeking?
- A form they can use to book their vacation hotel room?
- An ad?
If they can’t tell within a couple of seconds, chances are you’ll lose them altogether.
Clear page design helps. So make sure your article page looks like an article page, your forum looks like a forum and your ad looks like an ad.
Your web visitors should also grasp instantly what the page is about and why it’s relevant to them. A solid headline and deck will help you make your point quickly.
One-quarter of web pages don’t make it past the three-second scan. But if your web page does pass the three-second test, according to the German researchers, web visitors then spend about 10 seconds scanning the page.
2. Pass the 10-second test.
Inform visitors within 10 seconds. In the first 10 seconds, web visitors make a critical stay-or-go decision. They don’t dive right into the paragraphs; they scan the page to see whether it fits their needs.
Convince them that it does by lifting your key ideas off the page with scannable microcontent.
One-quarter of web pages don’t make it past that 10-second scan. But if they do stay, visitors look around a bit more.
3. Pass the 30-second test.
If visitors stay longer than 10 seconds, they look around a bit more. In the next 20 seconds — their first 30 seconds total on the page — they’re still quite likely to leave.
After 30 seconds, though, the curve becomes fairly flat. Visitors continue to leave a page, but much more slowly than they did during the first 30 seconds.
If you can get people to stay for 30 seconds, there’s a good chance that they’ll stay longer — “often 2 minutes or more, which is an eternity on the web,” Nielsen writes.
“How long will users stay on a web page before leaving? It’s a perennial question, yet the answer has always been the same: Not very long,” Nielsen writes. “To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.”
Source: Jakob Nielsen, “How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?” Nielsen Norman Group, Sept. 12, 2011
Harald Weinrich, Hartmut Obendorf, Eelco Herder and Matthias Mayer; “Not quite the average: An empirical study of Web use,” ACM Transactions on the Web (TWEB), Vol. 2 Issue 1, February 2008
Luke Wroblewski, “Communicate Quick: First Impressions Through Visual Web Design,” UIE.com, Oct. 1, 2008