What everybody ought to know about the 3-second rule

woman on phone creating a sticky site

Hint: it’s got nothing to do with how long your food was on the floor… Red Cloud’s top three tips for creating a sticky site that keeps your audience engaged for longer.

First impressions count, so the saying goes, and never so much more than when it comes to your website. Of course, an aesthetically pleasing site counts for a lot, but only if it loads quickly.

Here’s why: More than 50% of visits to mobile sites are abandoned after 3 seconds.

Google insights in user behaviour

This finding is from Google subsidiary DoubleClick’s late 2016 report: The need for mobile speed: How mobile latency impacts publisher revenue.

The report also found that mobile sites that loaded in 5 seconds earned almost DOUBLE the revenue of sites that loaded in 19 seconds. What’s more, 5-second, faster-loading sites had average session lengths that were 70% longer – and bounce rates that were 35% lower – than the slower, 19-second, slower-loading sites.

And although this report relates to sites when they’re accessed from mobile phones, don’t think you’re off the hook if your audience is less mobile.

What comes after the first 3 seconds

Back in 2011 a widely referenced study found that, when it comes to first impressions, the initial 10 seconds are the most critical. If the visitor stayed 10 seconds, the next critical marker was 30 seconds – after which, you could safely assume you had created a sticky site.

Another 2011 study showed that a site’s visual appeal can be assessed in just 50 milliseconds, and in 2012 Google research took this even further, saying that the first impression can be made as quickly as 17 milliseconds. The two key messages to emerge from the Google study were that visitors prefer simple websites that conform to conventions (one ‘look’ for news sites, another ‘look’ for e-commerce sites, and so on).

Get stickier

So what CAN you do to make sure you’re creating a sticky site?

  1. Use design to ensure your site is fast-loading, visually pleasing and uncomplicated. Nothing will make people jump off a page faster than a page so crowded with information that they don’t know where to look.
  2. Don’t expect your visitors to do the legwork. Ensure the content and design work together to say to the visitor: you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how we can help solve your problem or meet your need.
  3. Present visitors with what they expect. Use generally accepted conventions or styles. Ensure the navigation does what it should and swiftly takes visitors exactly where they need to go on your site.

Offer value

Also – consider including demonstrations of how your product works, and offering value in the form of free trials, materials and sample products. All of these are tried and tested methods for increasing stickiness.

If you want to learn more about how to keep people on your site for longer, call Red Cloud today.

Jess Gadd

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Red Cloud Digital is a Sydney-based team, focused on harnessing the web to help professional service providers improve their positioning and increase their revenue.


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