Cover Story: How Engaging Is Your Website Design?
In general, website visitors should be able to find most information within three clicks, says Tom Goosmann, chief creative officer at digital direct marketing agency True North, based in New York and San Francisco. "I don't want to spend all my time hunting the site for information that may or may not be there," he says, noting the same is true for today's consumer and business professional.
Goosmann subscribes to the concept of "threes" for other aspects of Web design, too. "Whenever we build a site, True North applies what we call the 'three-thirty-three rule' to direct both our strategic thinking and creative work," he says. In three seconds, the site needs to connect viscerally with an arriving prospect, to intrigue them enough to stay put and not click away. In 30 seconds, the site needs to communicate the company's core message and make clear that its pages contain good content to explore. And in three minutes, the site needs to provide enough succinct, relevant information in an emotionally satisfying format that persuades the prospect to take the desired action.
"Sites built along these lines tell a story across time, unfolding in short, medium and long term to hold and direct a user's attention," Goosmann explains.
Cristin Siegel, director of user experience and research at interactive agency Designkitchen in Chicago, also recommends marketers consider adding filtering to their site navigations. The new trend enables visitors, for example, to drill down to a specific item or piece of content, based on variables they select.
As for pitfalls to avoid: Learn to live with the fact that you can't put everything on the homepage, Goosmann says. Instead, give obvious clues on how to find things. If you're sporting video, don't "force" users to view it; offer them an option to click and view. "Also be careful with use of flash animations that repeat when backing up to a homepage," Goosman adds. "Yes, it was beautiful and you paid dearly for it, but don't reload it every time I hit the back button. Again, annoying."