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'7 seconds' is often trotted out as the maximum amount of time you get to impress someone when they land on your website. Where does this figure come from, and has the rule ever been proven?

Edit: some citations:

http://www.newfrontierllc.com/blog/bid/153151/Small-Business-Marketing-The-7-Second-Homepage-Assessment

http://www.relevancesells.com/2010/02/11/the-1st-7-seconds-rule-for-websites/

http://www.theopensite.com/sevenseconds.html

http://www.venndigital.co.uk/blog/post/7-seconds-the-importance-of-a-captivating-website

http://www.hallme.com/blog/do-you-have-a-7-second-website/ ( links to an article that claims 4 seconds )

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Where did you get this quote from ? –  Mervin Johnsingh Jan 30 '13 at 11:23
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hi @Mervin - added some links –  djb Jan 30 '13 at 11:31
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It's because men think about sex every 7 seconds, so they lose interest in the website and start thinking of that instead. –  JonW Jan 30 '13 at 11:46
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Going through the hallme to the 4 second link it seems like its coming from Akamai research - who are actually claiming 2 second load times for e-commerce: akamai.com/html/about/press/releases/2009/press_091409.html, which is down from the 4 seconds in 2006 (akamai.com/4seconds) –  icc97 Jan 30 '13 at 12:03
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The evidence is obvious and clear and...hey...what's that? SQUIRREL! –  DA01 Jan 30 '13 at 13:33
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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

'7 Seconds - 11 Decisions' appears frequently in articles about first impressions. Here is an example.

As in the example, the research is attributed to Michael Solomon at NYU.

However, Michael Solomon has not been at NYU since the mid/late 1980's - according to his CV.

He has written many books on consumer behavior and marketing. It is possible that one of his research papers addresses the speed of decision making. His textbook, Consumer Behavior, does not. This is the supplemental material on that topic.

If he is the source of '7 seconds - 11 decisions' then the research on which it is based or the original publication is hard to find.

This is a nice summary of psychology research on first impressions of people. There is nothing in the summary about impressions being formed in 7 seconds.

One of the earliest studies of first impressions of web sites was published by the HOT Lab at Carleton University. Their results suggested first and lasting impressions are formed within 50 milliseconds.

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7 seconds sounds a bit too precise for such an imprecise term as 'interest'. Jacob Nielsen's 10 seconds sounds like a rounded up version of these:

  • 0.1 second is about the limit for having the user feel that the system is reacting instantaneously, meaning that no special feedback is necessary except to display the result.
  • 1.0 second is about the limit for the user's flow of thought to stay uninterrupted, even though the user will notice the delay. Normally, no special feedback is necessary during delays of more than 0.1 but less than 1.0 second, but the user does lose the feeling of operating directly on the data.
  • 10 seconds is about the limit for keeping the user's attention focused on the dialogue. For longer delays, users will want to perform other tasks while waiting for the computer to finish, so they should be given feedback indicating when the computer expects to be done. Feedback during the delay is especially important if the response time is likely to be highly variable, since users will then not know what to expect.
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I've always found all that research a little vague.

  • What kind of product/art/content were used in the research?
  • Did the visitor have a specific goal or task to complete?
  • What is the environmental context?

These kind of factors is crucial to the understanding of the results.

In the end, it depends on a combination of the quality and/or glossiness of the content, the eagerness of the user, and the amount of surrounding distraction, among other things.

Also, you can get "impressed" by a site and then throw it away all the same.

What you're trying to do in the end is pulling the visitor/potential customer in, so it's more interesting to examine bounce rates and average time before bounce. Those will most certainly differ from site to site, depending on the landing page itself.

Also, if the bounce rate is low while the "time until bounce" also is low (i.e. the few users that do bounce does it quickly), is that a bad thing? If the bounce rate is low but the "time until bounce" is high - is that better or worse?

All sites are different and the only really valid statistics is between the old version and your new version of your site.

Comparing different sites is a little like comparing the box office sales between 'The Avengers' and 'Annie Hall'. And yes - I like them both. :-)

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I heard that they lose interest in 5 seconds, or is it 3 seconds... This number varies between 10-2 seconds. This number is used by designers, developers, marketeers and so on, only when it suits them to make sure that their point is backed by "study".

Saying that you need to make sure that your website is optimized for different devices, from desktops to mobile. Load speed does matter, but the content or service that you provide mattes more.

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thanks. question is - where's the 'study'? –  djb Jan 30 '13 at 11:56
    
people.cs.umass.edu/~ramesh/Site/HOME_files/imc208-krishnan.pdf This one concentrates on video... –  Igor-G Jan 30 '13 at 12:18
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munchweb.com/effect-of-website-speed: here is a list of the studies done by different people. They don't have links so use Google to get to the study... Also you need to pay for most of these studies. found this: www1.unl.edu/search/?q=download.pdf –  Igor-G Jan 30 '13 at 12:30
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While the question is asking for a study, I think this answer is valid and is making a good point in that the study is perhaps not the key here. The key is to understand that 'first impressions' do matter, and there are studies for that. Whether that first impression is 5 seconds or 10 seconds doesn't seem quite as important, IMHO. –  DA01 Jan 30 '13 at 13:35
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