Did you know that the human attention span is shorter than a goldfish? No?

According to the National Centre for Biotechnology, the average human attention span in 2013 was eight seconds, one second less than a goldfish. Research shows 40% of website users leave a site within the first fifteen seconds if they are unable to find what they are looking for, with many never to return.

So how can we design a website to have a positive first impression and keep users engaged for longer?

Here are 6 important rules to follow:

01. Speed

No matter how well designed your website is, if it fails to load quickly, you risk losing your users. Nearly half of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. A delay of a second can have a damaging effect on conversion rates and customer satisfaction. 75% of consumers who experience low site performance admit to never returning to the site to buy again.

Walmart increased conversions by 2% for every second they improved their sites loading speed and in 2016, slow loading websites cost the US market more than $500 billion.

02. Compelling content

If you want your users to read your content, make sure it is short and to the point. Studies show users very rarely read beyond the first sentence or paragraph. "The average user reads only 28% of text on the page" says researcher, Jakob Nielsen. In fact they just scan the page for the desired information.

If content is badly edited or is too complex, the user has to work hard to make sense of it. This is when they begin to lose interest and risk abandoning your site. Use bulleted lists and subheading to break up content.

03. Embrace the space

White space is the empty space that surrounds text, images and other elements on a webpage. It is one of the most valuable parts of your website; helping make layouts easier to understand and to focus the user. White space should be used to break up content into digestible sections. It helps create a sense of balance and sophistication, as shown by Apple.

Using white space to emphasise an important element has been found to increase user comprehension by 20%

04. Show progress

Nothing irritates users more than not knowing where they are within a task and how much longer it's going to take to complete. After one second of waiting, the user's attention begins to wander. Offer a reason to wait with a progress indicator. They are great at reducing user anxiety, focusing the user on the task at hand and offer a visual distraction. 75% of users prefer to have a progress indicator.

Many leading brands use progress indicators with great success. For instance, both LinkedIn and Gmail use progress indicators to visualise how many steps are remaining when setting up a new account

05. Be consistant

The quickest way to capture user's attention is to design with consistency. Avoid making users feel that they've stepped into an entirely different site every time they click on a new page. Use the same fonts, colours and styles on every page. Remember, if users can't find what they need or feel confused, they will just go elsewhere

06. Experiment with rich media

Think about using rich media such as images, graphs and video as a way to present information. They not only make a page more appealing, but the brain processes visual content more easily than text. Rich media helps the eye relax from long sentences and gives a layout structure.

Using video online is well documented - users spend twice as long on pages that include a video. It has the potential to boost a sites conversion rate hugely, with 85% of users saying they purchased an item after watching a product video. Wistia, a video hosting service, found shorter videos of up to 30 seconds to be the most engaging.

Key takeaways

Congratulations for concentrating long enough to make it through this article!

Designing for short attention spans is about maintaining the users attention and not designing for just the first few seconds of contact. It's about creating a calming environment for users to concentrate and finding creative ways to stimulate their interest.

Follow the steps above, to keep your users engaged for longer