Creating a wow factor with lasting resonance

The first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users" according to web usability expert Jakob Nielsen. "But pages with a clear value proposition hold people's attention for much longer" [Nielsen Norman Group, 2011].

Nielsen's research indicates that what marketers refer to as "stickiness" is vital for making a successful website. The key thing about stickiness is that it cannot rely on initial appeal alone – it requires substance to keep time-poor visitors clicking, exploring and engaging.

Art delivers the wow factor to maximum effect. Whether through unusual materials, bold colour, or monumental size, artworks can often create a spectacle that grabs attention. What makes a masterpiece, however, is whether or not the artwork effects lasting impact or change.

In the case of portraiture, the Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Mona Lisa strike us with their beauty yet linger in our minds as anonymous enigmas. Both Vermeer and Leonardo Da Vinci painted women with whom our relationship or curiosity rests not on who they are or what they do, as you might expect with portraiture, but on why they have been singled out.

Meanwhile, Anish Kapoor's public sculpture Cloud Gate in Chicago is one of contemporary art's finest examples of instant vs. lasting impact.

Inspired by liquid mercury, the bean-like shape stands at 20 meters tall, its magnitude alone enough to stun passers-by. Once the mind adjusts to the size and general oddity of it — as alien to the space as if planted by a UFO — its reflection becomes apparent as the AT&T Plaza is seen warped on its curved surface.

At this point, the sheer skill of the craftsmanship involved dawns on the viewer, who on closer inspection will see that the stainless steel surface is perfectly welded together with no visible seams.

By now, most people have approached near enough to find themselves staring back at their own reflection in the mirror. They have gradually become a part of this object and now their movements and responses in relation to it define what it is.

The direct interaction leaves a lasting memory as we walk away; what does it mean and what was the artist trying to say?

The domestic and international popularity of Cloud Gate stands as a testament to the power of this artwork to inspire discussion, return visits and recommendations amongst friends.

Does that sound like how an ideal website should work? At Pixink, we think so. A web page should have instant impact that inspires curiosity to look further - resulting in direct engagement. That's what organisations should aspire to in their communications. To that end, artist-led creativity can inspire the development of new systems and creative solutions.

For the creation of instant and lasting wow-factor consider Greyworld's distinctly British installation, Virtual Sun, commissioned by Tropicana.

Tropicana Sun

Tropicana Sun © Greyworld 2013

At a notoriously depressing time of year – on a Monday in late January – Greyworld unveiled a special glowing sun, hoisted into the sky before dawn to illuminate Trafalgar Square.

The wit with which this piece combined an unmissable visual experience with the English tradition of moaning about the weather meant its meaning was carried beyond that of a short-lived spectacle.

By meeting a need (a brighter start to the day) and speaking to shared dreams and aspirations (a sunnier climate) Greyworld's piece lifted people's spirits and created a memorable experience that felt like 'theirs'.

This artwork highlights how a consideration of place, time and cultural relevance can enhance the impact and meaning of a visitor experience. We can conclude that impact generation lies in purposefulness. Connecting directly to personal affinities makes all the difference in ensuring that a temporary message sticks in the mind.

Applied to website design this insight tells us that everything matters. Not just how the site looks and reads, but also the way it's features and functions create a sense of personal affinity. The objective should be to create a meaningful encounter, not just a useable interface.

In summary:

When designing communications try to create an encounter that delivers instant visual impact and lasting resonance. Art-inspired design has the power to do this by drawing on visual and relational theory. Digital technology has the power to achieve it through its immediacy. Combining art, design and digital will result in a powerful engagement framework.