Did you know that the average human’s attention span today is shorter than that of a goldfish?

So says a Canadian research tank:

“The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.”

Now, I don’t think it’s fair to blame our smartphones at all.

It’s not that we have less of an attention span. It’s that we’ve gotten much better at choosing what not to pay attention to.

We live in an era of information overload. Ads,  duties and commitments. There’s so much to do, all. the. time.

What’s that? ‘Binge watching,’ you say?

Oh yeah. Get this: The same generation that could be outstared by a goldfish, is also changing the way television is made because they love binging entire shows for 8 to 12 hours in one go.

How does this relate to the title of this article?

Yes, it does have to do with attention span. And it has everything to do with where people are choosing to put their attention.

crossfit web design

Your Website Homepage

High bounce rates are often seen as the bane of most websites. And while there’s a strong case to be made for low attention span, there’s also an equally strong case to be made about

  1. Quality of the content
  2. Clarity of the presentation
  3. Trust in the messenger
  4. How well the need/question is being answered

Think about a sign on a highway, or in a neighborhood. There’s actually a pretty sophisticated psychology behind how each one is laid out, colored and typographed. Strangely enough, they’re actually designed to not be seen, and to keep your eyes on the road.

Drivers have split seconds to make snap judgements. Either in a school district or on the highway, changing lanes to get to the right on-ramp often takes all our concentration.

Imagine if the off-ramp signs were in cursive, because the county decided they wanted to project a friendly, rustic atmosphere. Or if everything was in lowercase to be a little more informal. Or if everything was in caps and used contractions/acronymns to save space.

Chaos. And angry drivers. Obviously. You don’t have time to sit there processing the implications of a sign 100 feet away when you’re going 70 mph.

It’s the same with a website. Whether someone’s chosen to visit or landed by accident, you have to break through the tired glaze on most visitors’ attention spans. Life is just so busy, so demanding.

So what does it take to get through?

The Grunt Test

When are we getting to the Neanderthals?

In about 9 seconds. If you can last that long.

We no longer live in the 1950’s, or even in the 1990’s, when you could get away with a heck of a lot more with folk’s attention spans than you can today. Similar to the Victorian era when people walked everywhere, they had time to take a sign apart in their minds as they ambled by.

Today, we surf online the way we drive; one eye on our Facebook updates, and one eye on the traffic lights. (No, I don’t. And if you do, please stop. Unless it’s this article, then… well, stop anyway.)

The key is in keeping it simple. KISS. The last ‘s’ is for stupid. Or sweetheart. Whatever works.

Finding the standards that make for successful websites is fast forming the basis for every efficient website. And it’s actually so simple a Neanderthal could get it.

The key question: does your marketing message pass the grunt test?

“Donald Miller of StoryBrand.com talks about subjecting your website to the “grunt test.” If a primitive caveman took a quick look at your site, would he be able to grunt what it is that you offer?”

The modern, media-savvy human has not necessarily a short attention-span, but a highly-tuned, extremely selective attention span. With so many things demanding our consideration, we’ve become very good at making snap decisions about what’s important to us at a given moment.

Donald Miller goes on to make the point that if we have to think too hard to understand something, we’re going to give up and move on to something easier to process.

I’ll add the caveat that if we have to think too hard to understand something that we actually want and are interested in,  we’ll probably move on.

The Theory Behind Any Successful Homepage

If you can build a homepage respecting these four points, then your message stands a chance of capturing your visitors’ attention long enough for them to listen to you.

  1. Quality of the content: Has everything been built with a high standard of quality? This means good text, choice images, etc. Have you taken the time to craft content that truly resonates with your audience, communicates your benefits and gives them a good reason to pause?
  2. Clarity of the presentation: Do you look modern and professional, or dated and clunky? The standards of your presentation will improve or remove the level of trust in your service or product. Are your calls to action clear and descriptive? Is your design clear and intentional? Is it easy to use the website using conventional navigation methods?
  3. Trust in the messenger: Do you express trustworthiness? This can be a combination of good design, clear content, social proof like testimonials, backlinks or referrals. Can you give them a reason to trust that you’re providing an answer?
  4. How well the need/question is being answered: When all this comes together, have you made it easy to understand how you can help them? It can often boil down to an above-the-fold slogan and headline. They need to withstand the Grunt Test, and everything on the remainder of the page should support that without overwhelming with too much information.

Granted, different homepages need to serve different needs, so some rules will always be bent. But the principles remain the same, whether for a single-page website for an app or Amazon.

No longer are homepages hubspots that have to connect visitors to every aspect of the website.

With more visitors landing on website via search terms taking them to blog posts or pages, the homepage is a reset point for the brand, and teases overall benefits to a visitor, inspiring them with enough to help them dig deeper.

These articles are ones that we refer to often for inspiration and rationale for our recommendations:

Put Time Into Finding Great Images

Win with a Vine?

Today, we have a simple and challenging job; we have to build a website homepage that explains who we are and the value we’re bringing our visitor in under 7 seconds.

“Everybody knows how important first impressions are. But not everybody knows that the “first impression” is actually only a seven second window upon first meeting someone. This means in an interview situation you need to act quickly in order to make a brilliant first impression on your interviewers.” BusinessInsider.com

The same thing applies to websites.

So you have about the length of a Vine to convince someone to click ‘show me more’, which leaves them about 1 second to decide.

Oh yeah. The pressure is on. ;)

Find out how Enable can help you nail it.

Header photo CC Tim Evanson | Flickr

Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.

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