Designing for the 3 Second Rule


3-5 seconds! Yes that’s all it takes to make a great first impression. I know this sounds like an atrociously low time frame to create an impression, but that’s the way it is! What you see or hear in these initial few seconds, shapes your opinion of the person.

Now, this got me thinking, isn’t it the same with websites? Website users are known for their ruthlessness and impatience vis-à-vis website that does not deliver on their expectations. In as good as a few seconds, these visitors make up their minds whether a website is good or bad. That means your website design is under tremendous pressure to make an immediate impact. For those who say this is a difficult task, I say this is a near impossible task. You can never be sure, whether you can capture the attention of your website visitors in a few seconds.

But, what if you want to design for the 3 second rule, that is, make sure your website manages to make an impression in the first three seconds that users spend on the site? What if you want to put your design under pressure? And what if you want your website to make a resounding impact, no matter what?

Here’s what you can do:

1. Impact Design is Unique

Don’t come up with the tried and tested ideas that make the rounds of the World Wide Web. Take risks, and think unique. Such designs might or might not work, but if they do, you’ll have a really successful website on your hands.

This is Diesel’s page showcasing Diesel’s Fall Winter 2013 collection of Shoes, Bags & Accessories. Notice the use of emotional galleries and the innovative navigation that captures immediate attention. It’s the navigation that is the tour de force of the page, and acts as the element used to help engage the visitors and make an impression on them.

Story Pixel is a site that does this really well. It goes retro with its design theme and captures the attention of its visitors instantly! It is the kind of site that captures immediate interest; you look at it and you want to know more about it.

2. Using Illustrations to Make your Case

If you want to stand out from the crowd, you can’t beat the power of illustrations to carry the day. The problem with using illustrations is that not every web designer is a good illustrator. Creating a really effective illustration requires a herculean creative effort oozing with artistry. This is why many web designers avoid using illustrations on their websites. But, who said anything about web design being easy. So, create an impression with illustrations, the way these sites are doing:

Red Ape is an Illustration, Animation and Creative Design Company and its Home Page leaves no room for doubt as to its purpose. So, you got an illustration, a storyboard, 3D graphics, and the works on the Home Page. Don’t say it isn’t impressive.

The landing page of Stereo Creative makes use of banners to showcase a collection of abstract illustrations and the work they have done. This is again something that makes it’s point brilliantly.

3. Using Emotions to Make an Impact

Emotive appeal helps build an immediate impact. It’s something that persuades visitors to react in a certain way, immediately. Most successful websites on the World Wide Web have emotions woven into them. These emotions are a result of the visuals, the text on the pages or a combination of the two.

There are lots of things happening on Gopher Gridiron. You look at the visuals and you have a sense of drama that characterizes a hard fought game of American Football. Immediate attention is guaranteed.

Charleston Family Fun is what fun family holidays are all about and each and every pixel of the design screams ‘fun’. The emotions are so brilliantly implemented through the design that you get right into the holiday mood, when you look at the website’s design. It’s a perfect example of how emotive appeal can make an instant connect.

4. Go Back into the Past to Make an Impact in the Present

I have personally found making use of nostalgia to create impressive websites, work every single time. The use of nostalgia in websites gives out a feeling of being loved, protected and a plethora of other feelings that make the necessary impact on the website visitors. But the use of nostalgia must have some purpose in mind and align itself with the website’s message. Something that Milk Every Moment does brilliantly:

The site’s purpose is to promote drinking milk, by stirring up the fondest memories of our childhood. You open the site and you’re greeted with retro design elements with a video banner playing some nostalgic videos. Even if you aren’t a milk lover or are lactose intolerant, you’ll still end up loving the site.

5. Say the Right Things

Content has always been King and when it comes to creating a decisive impact with the website design, it is more than just king, it’s actually everything.

Moz is a company that helps businesses market themselves better on the internet. It makes great use of content to make its point and relies very little on visuals.

Accenture is another services specific site that uses content brilliantly to capture the attention of visitors. The best content is one that answers all the right questions, and that’s illustrated by this site perfectly. It also showcases the credibility and authority of the business that the website represents.

If you’re not able to zero in on the right visuals for your website, it’s better to focus on its content instead; this will help you grab the necessary eyeballs.

End Words

As I mentioned before, making sure your website makes a great first impression on its website visitors isn’t easy. But web designers are doing it, and the examples in this article are proof that they are doing it well. So, there is no real reason why you cannot do it as well. All it requires is a bit of effort in the right direction, and stretching the limits of your creative instincts and technical proficiency. If you do this, you are bound to succeed. All the best!

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