15 Seconds, Three Clicks

Disclaimer: Brace for Unfortunate Websites. 

The average time a user spends on a website is 15 seconds. If you haven’t hooked them in that tiny time frame, you’re not going to. Don’t get me wrong, a lot can happen in fifteen seconds: a politician can lie 22 times, ahi tuna can be seared correctly, and a professional football team can commit three turnovers (if that team is the Cleveland Browns or Miami Dolphins). Okay, that last one is the only one we can actually prove, but you get the point. If you’re trying to sell a customer on your business, you need to do it quickly, clearly and decisively, the exact opposite of what this paragraph is doing at THIS VERY MOMENT.

How to make the most of 15 seconds.

If you want to keep users on your page, you need to pay attention to three big things:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Hierarchy
  3. Navigability

Simplicity is a complicated concept. Okay, maybe not, but it is an important one. One of the top reasons users leave a website without completing a call to action is because they can’t find something. More isn’t always better, and your website needs a homepage that is simple and clear to the point if you want visitors to linger longer.

Example: What would you do if you were looking for an interior designer and you came across this link (go ahead, you can click it)? How long would you stay on this page before clicking the back button and trying your search again? It’s a shame, because Jami Lin is an accomplished Feng Shui designer and author who’s been featured in the Book-of-the-Month Club. But you’d never know that unless you took the time to sort through all the clutter to find her Interior Design page, and that may not happen in 15 seconds.


Hierarchy means your most important information is your most available information. For an insurance brokerage, that means highlighting the types of insurance you sell, why you’re better than other agencies, and claims information for your clients. If you’re a band, you’d better have music, upcoming shows and booking information right on your homepage.  

Example: Take a look at the University of Advancing Technology’s website. Its homepage is grabbing, visual, and interactive. It also has more calls to action than a user can process in 15 seconds. I wonder if the student is deep in thought, or just seeing tech-stars because the graphic surplus left him dizzy. It’s actually a beautiful aesthetic, but you should never have a dozen+ calls to action on your landing page. Try and pick the three or four most important pieces of information your users are looking for and highlight them. The rest belongs a click or two away on the back pages.

Navigability is the ease with which a viewer can find information throughout the various pages on your site. Just as most people will only spend 15 seconds on a website before giving up, they’re also only willing to give three clicks when looking for specific information. If they haven’t found what they’re looking for by that third click, they probably won’t find it at all.

Example: GatesNFences.com might be the Bermuda Triangle of websites. This company does beautiful, ornate ironwork in Miami Florida, but good luck using their 60+ item navigation bar. They appear to be a remarkable company (and are extremely pleasant on the phone, apparently this is just one of their many websites. Eek), but their website is harder to navigate than a Congressional Hearing. Sidenote: when you visit their page, be quiet and turn the volume up on your speakers. You might be able to hear cries for help from lost visitors and web developers, still trying to navigate the site from somewhere deep in cyberspace.

If you’re still here, we’ve kept you way longer than 15 seconds.

Here’s the moral of the story: Each of the above sites has something to offer consumers, but they’re getting in their own way and pushing potential clients into the arms of competitors. Simple, easy-to-use websites are exactly what people are looking for, so why not provide one? Keep it simple, put the most important information first, and give users a way to find details within three clicks whenever possible.

Website Developers are just like any other artist, they sometimes get lost in the creative side of the process. A developer working with a digital marketing team, especially one with experience building industry-specific business websites, will have colleagues to help pull in the reins and streamline commercial websites. Don’t fall into the SEO trap of jamming links, keywords and extra pages into your site. Find a way to strategically optimize your page while keeping it user-friendly. Otherwise, your customers will find somewhere else to go.

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