A simple rule in writing suggests that things that are grouped in threes are more satisfying to the reader and are more effective than any other number of things at delivering a message. For whatever reason human beings tend to think of things in triplets. We remember things best in threes and scan visual elements better when grouped in three. By using and appropriately breaking the rule of three can we improve conversions on our websites?
Think for a second of all the occurrences of three around us. The three Musketeers, Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Third time is a charm, three strikes and your out, the holy trinity. Even stooges come in threes. Famous speeches and slogans make use of the rule of three. “Friends, Romans, and Countrymen,” “Stop, drop, and roll,” “Reading, writing, and arithmetic.”
Stories are often told in three acts with a beginning, middle, and end and are often presented in trilogies. A series of three can be used to create a progression where tension is created, built up and then released. Blues music is often follows this progression of three with call, followed by a response that is generally a repeat of the initial call and finally a punchline. The rhythm of three works well for us.
Improve Conversions With Threes
You can make use of threes to improve conversions by grouping visual elements in three and providing three options to choose from. Use lists of three benefits for your products and group those lists into threes. Use three in your writing as I’ve been doing throughout this post.
Try three calls to action on your page, a primary call, a secondary call, and a tertiary call. Since people will remember three points better than any other number, organize your articles or sales pitch around three main points to help ensure they all get remembered.
Do you have a page of product images organized into a table. Perhaps it would be best to use either three columns or three rows or maybe even both. Why not offer three levels of service at three different price points? Maybe your forms should ask for three pieces of information before having to submit. There are lots of ways you can experiment with groupings of three on your site and in your copy.
Converting By Breaking The Rule Of Three
Before you become convinced that you should never do anything unless it comes in a group of three, keep in mind that rules were made to be broken. Case in point is this article from Media Post The Rule Of Three In Search. You’ll need to sign up for a free membership to read the full article, but here’s the summary. The article conducted a study of click through rates on sponsored ads at the three major search engines. Yahoo was leading both Google and MSN in click through on their ads and it was difficult to see why, until the rule of three was found to be playing a role.
Upon checking all three results pages at a 1024 x 768 screen resolution (the most common browser resolution in use today) it could easily be seen that both Google and MSN used the rule of three in presenting what could be seen above the fold. Three sponsored ads, three one box results, and three organic results. Yahoo by comparison weighted things to the sponsored ads by displaying four of them and only one organic result. It’s possible the organic results seemed less satisfying with only one visible and the sponsored results took more time to go through than the easy group of three keeping people focused on that area of the page longer.
The rule of three is everywhere around us and if you look for it you’ll be amazed at all the times something is presented or organized in threes. By using the rule of three throughout your website you can create a more satisfying experience for your visitors and quite possibly convert them from visitors to buyers. Still you don’t want to lock yourself into threes. Breaking the rule of three in appropriate places can lead to more sales and success as perhaps evidenced by the Yahoo sponsored search results. Rules were made to be broken and those that manage to break the rules in a way that works often have the most success. Perhaps they never break just one rule, but always opt to break three rules at once.
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