Once upon a time, the adult attention span was twelve minutes. An average adult could stay focused on a task for twelve minutes without becoming distracted. In today’s modern, 24/7, always-on world, the average adult attention span is down to five minutes. Five minutes, and the decrease has occurred within the last decade.
There are some in the social media world who say the average attention span on a web page is two and a half seconds. Incredible, isn’t it? Leaving aside the shocking decline in attention span and the attendant decline in deep, or critical, thinking, the point is painfully clear; we’ve become an instant gratification society, and if we can’t fix it quickly, we move on and don’t worry about it. There are many ramifications of this change, and most of them are not good. However, we’ll leave discussion about the societal decline for another day, and concentrate on how you, as a business owner, can keep your website at the forefront of your industry.
“I Want It Now!”
The first thing to realize is the internet world is all about instant gratification. If your page takes one second too long to load, the average internet user will dump you and move on. So, structuring your pages to load quickly becomes critical. There are tools you can use, a lot of them for free, to measure how long your page(s) take to load, how quickly they respond to scrolling, and how quickly links in the page can be followed. Optimizing your page for maximum performance is the first step in keeping the internet equivalent of the remote control from zapping you off.
Your Audience are Like the Terrible Twos
The second thing to realize is, the average internet user has the attention span of a spoiled two-year old, and that may be insulting the two-year old. If the user doesn’t find what he’s looking for quickly, he’ll reach for that “remote control” and zap you off.
Organizing your information to get someone’s attention, and to tell them what they want to know fast is not a new concept; advertisers have known this for as long as advertising has been around. Organizing a web page for attention-getting, and fast information retrieval is not rocket science, but you do need to put some thought into it.
First, what is the page’s purpose? Are you selling a product? Are you selling information? Deciding what your page is about is key to your success in converting the viewer into a paying customer. If they can’t find what they’re looking for in two and a half seconds, your page is going into internet history, at least as far as this viewer is concerned. There are analytics companies who can provide data on page-viewing habits; you might want to look at some of them, to get an idea of what pages get and keep the most viewers.
If it’s Pretty, They Will Stay
Once you’ve decided what your page is all about, you need to think about presentation. You want a fast-loading, eye-catching, attention-grabbing page. How do you get one? If you’ve no design skills, you find a web designer to give you a hand. You need to know about colors, video, and graphics, both static and animated. A noisy page gets left behind quickly, because it’s too difficult to navigate. You may have exactly what the internet viewer wants, but if he can’t find it amid the noise, you’re going to lose a potential customer. Text-filled pages get left behind quickly as well, unless the viewer is involved in research. Pages crowded with text are hard to read; white space becomes a major factor in how easy it is to retrieve information from your page. Organize your information into multiple pages, with the most important information up front, and subheadings linking to other pages for in-depth explanations.
To Have and to Hold
With the advent of the 24/7, always-on world, getting and keeping an internet user’s attention has become critical; you have to be innovative and unique to get somebody to stay with you for more than two and a half seconds, much less five minutes. If you want your web pages to be viable, you’ll have to keep them fresh and informative, and you’ll have to employ unique methods to land your fish, so to speak, and to keep them interested as you reel them in for the sale. It takes research on your part, but in the long run, it’s well worth the effort.