Think of this — a typical website visitor has an attention span of 5 seconds the first time they see a webpage. Seems like a long time? Try it yourself: go to a webpage you've never visited before, count to 5 in your head, and leave the website. What do you remember? If nothing grabbed you in that first 5' seconds (or even the first 2 or 3 seconds!) you probably would have been out of there.
Five seconds is all we've got as product designers to capture a potential customer's interest. That initial visual, interaction, or text someone sees is our opportunity to leave the most powerful impression on them. If we screw up in these first few seconds, chances are we lost them.
Take a look at this great example from Penny Arcade at what happens when a video game fails to engage users in its opening moments:
So the question becomes, how do we capture their attention in those first 5 seconds? Back in the early days of the internet people used to think flashing buttons and blinking text was the answer. Thankfully that did not catch on for too long. These days people are trying to use design and usability to catch potential customer's attention.
Let's take a look at three points in the video and see how these points can be used to capture attention in those first 5 seconds:
- A 'wow moment' in first 5 seconds. For video games, you've got 5 minutes to hook a user. Well, you've got less time than that when it comes to designing online products. As we've said, you've got five seconds. That's it. If nothing on your website grabs users in the first 5 seconds, they're likely to bounce and never come back. A wow moment or a memorable interaction is a must in these first 5 seconds.
- Communicate your core value clearly. As seen in the video, the game Skyrim failed to communicate its core value to players. This was exactly the same problem faced by a young entrepreneur from Castro Valley High School. After the initial launch of his WordPress plugin, he got tons of emails from confused users. They couldn't figure out the value behind the plugin.
- Duplicating how another product engages users in it's opening moments can be disastrous. Studying how other products engage users is useful. However, Skyrim copying Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's opening was disastrous. That's because the designers didn't understand the underlying elements that made Modern Warfare's opening so successful. If you plan to do this, make sure it makes sense to do the same for your own product. You should also understand all the minute details that made the opening moment successful.
It's easy to get consumed by the mad rush to release a product and just throw up something that doesn't really engage a potential user. We've seen this happen one too many times. This is precisely why we released a simple little app called Clue to help people test what potential customers remember after looking at their webpage for 5 seconds. It's a simple way to figure out if you're displaying the right visuals and text to grab your customer's attention.
Remember — if we don't get their attention in the first 5 seconds, then it might never happen since they'll just leave.