What Does Your Website Say in the First 3 Seconds?

Written by Wholegrain Team - April 28, 2014

First impressions count.

When visitors land on your website, they already have one foot poised over the exit, ready to move on. You have just 3 seconds to convince them that this is where they want to be. Three seconds to make an immediate impact and entice them to stay and do business with you.

So when you’re designing your website, you need to ensure that you communicate some key elements about who you are and what you do within those first 3 seconds.

No pressure.

To help you, we’ve put together a quick rundown of the key things you need to focus on if you want your visitors to hang around a little longer.

Who You Are

We start with the obvious – who you are. Your company logo is your identity. It needs to be well designed, it must capture the essence of your company and, most importantly, it has to be prominently placed – ideally it should be the first thing people see when they land on your page.

What You Do

A website isn’t just a website – it’s a tool to help communicate your business goals to an online audience. So when your visitors rock up at your front door, they shouldn’t be confused about what you do. It’s amazing how many websites forget this.

When a potential customer lands on your homepage they need to see, immediately, what your business does. Otherwise how are they going to know whether they want to do business with you or not?

Stating your business is also a key factor for SEO purposes. If your website doesn’t spell out what products or services you’re offering, search engines aren’t going to be sending you many potential customers, simply because they won’t have a clue that you’re there.

Adding a simple, crisp tagline and/or a clear, bold headline that sums up what your business does in a short, punchy message is essential.

Why People Should Care

OK, so your visitors know who you are and they know what you do. But here’s the thing. The internet is vast, and it’s chock-a-block full with hundreds of millions of other websites all vying for attention. So why should people care about you? What makes you special? What’s your unique selling point?

Your website needs to demonstrate to your visitors why your products or services are of value to them, how they will help to make their lives better, easier, etc.

So when you’re summarising the main features of your products or services, don’t just talk about why they’re so great – landing on a website that’s all ‘me, me, me’ will send people reaching for the back button in their droves. Show them why they need it.

When you’re preparing this copy, bear in mind who your target audience are, and make the information easy to skim and digest – remember, you need to get your message across in those vital 3 seconds.

Call to Action

Finally, think about what you want your visitors to do next. Once you’ve piqued their interest, you want to hold their attention and guide them around your website. And to do this, you need to include a call to action.

A great call to action must extend the initial 3 seconds to a sale or conversion. It’s a vital stepping stone. And it needs to be specific – forget ‘Go’ or ‘Submit’, they’re too abstract.

Decide on the action you want your visitors to take, and write a call to action using simple, straightforward language so they know exactly what’s required of them. This could be ‘Sign up to our Newsletter, ‘Take a Tour’, ‘Watch our Video’, or ‘Call us on XXXXX’.

Your CTA will vary depending on the type of business you’re running, but it has to make sense, and it needs to give your visitors a clear action to follow.


We’ve written recently about the importance of considering web design and copywriting together, but it needs another mention here.

Studies have shown that when you meet a person for the first time, your first impressions are up to four times more heavily influenced by their nonverbal cues, than their verbal ones.

This is much the same for websites.

When a visitor lands on a page, the first thing to catch their attention, whether consciously or not, is how it looks. The colour scheme, layout, font and main image will all contribute to the overall feel of the site. And it will be a spilt-second, intuitive reaction. Is this website trustworthy? Is it attractive and easy to use? Can you read the text easily? Can you find what you’re looking for quickly?

The aesthetics of your site are equally important as the words you have on it. If a visitor feels uncomfortable or overloaded, they aren’t going to hang around long enough to read the text.

As a business, your website is your online shop front and it’s your best chance at giving a good first impression. This isn’t an exhaustive list that will guarantee all visitors stay on your page beyond the initial 3 seconds, but it’s an excellent place to start. If you design your website with these factors in mind, you will stand a much better chance of beating the 3-second rule and turning your visitors into customers.

What information are you looking for when you visit a website for the first time? What has you reaching for the dreaded back button? We’d love to hear your thoughts.