First Impressions: How long will users stay on a web page?

It’s perhaps not widely known that Jane Austen’s original title for her wonderful novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ was ‘First Impressions’, and there are some who think that it’s a better title.  The point is, they can be misleading … and when it comes to browsing on the Internet there is little likelihood of bad first impressions having the opportunity to be rectified later.

We’ve stressed in recent articles how important the first impressions are when it comes to website design.  Remember that, if your site is lucky enough to get found in the first place (and we know that there’s a lot more to it than luck, although it helps!), you have a very short amount of time before the user either takes a closer look or moves on.  In this article we’re going to probe this in a little more detail.

How long will users stay on a web page?

On average, less than a minute!  In that short amount of time, they clearly haven’t got the time (let alone the inclination) to read more than perhaps a quarter of the text – so it had better be good!

Investigation undertaken by Microsoft Research (you can find the paper here) on over 200,000 different web pages each with over 10,000 visits (that’s a lot of data!) revealed that the time users spend on a page follows what in mathematics is known as a Weibull distribution.

We’re not intending to go into the mathematics, but the analysis does reveal some interesting and fascinating – and more to the point useful statistics.  Here’s the curve:


Now let’s examine what this tells us:

  •  the first TEN SECONDS are crucial.  If you haven’t captured their attention within that time, they will almost certainly leave
  • there is then about an ADDITIONAL TWENTY SECONDS – call it a period of grace – when the user, while not yet convinced, will look around for a while longer.  The probability of leaving is still very high
  • if the user stays on the page for around thirty seconds, it is likely that they’ll stay for longer – and it’s THEN that they are likely to read more than a quarter of the text, look at your products and services in more detail, and move along the path to buying from you

Those all-important ten seconds!

It’s not very long, is it?  In fact, it’s only about the amount of time you’ve taken to read these two sentences …

So what on earth can you do in your website design, in such a short amount of time, to grab their attention?  Wait for it …

Next time!  As promised we’ll be looking at how to make a brilliant first impression, and we will move on to cover:

  •  the importance of high quality “content”
  • site navigation
  • the use of links (internal and external)
  • making it easy to do business

And, as we’ve mentioned, once we’ve covered website design from the user’s perspective, we’ll take a look at it from the designer’s point of view.

We hope that we haven’t worried you too much …

But if you really can’t wait, click here for our home page, here for our contact page, or call us any time on 020 7199 8713 and our experts will put your mind at rest.

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