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Your company has invested a lot of time in building what you think is a great website. It's not only pretty, it's chock full of all the information about your products and services.

Then reality sets in: attention spans are short and as great as your website is on paper, it just doesn't hold attention long enough to convey all of the important information those customers and potential customers need to make the decisions that will boost your bottom line.

What can you do? Here are six ways to optimize your website for short attention spans.

1. Chunk content

Depending on what your company is selling, it may be all but impossible to avoid longer-than-desirable content. That, however, doesn't mean that it has to look longer-than-desirable. From splitting up pages with lots of content across multiple pages using pagination to tweaking your information architecture so that you have fewer intimidatingly-long pages, it's often not all that difficult to trick your impatient potential customers into believing that you're requiring them to read less than you really are.

2. Make skimming easy

In an ideal world, every potential customer would invest ample time in perusing your company's website. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world and your assumption should be that your potential customers are far more likely to skim your website than study it.

With this in mind, making sure your website is TL;DR-friendly is crucial. Fortunately, this doesn't always require a complete overhaul of your content. Thoughtful formatting of text and application of appropriate typography, for instance, can go a long way towards ensure that the most important parts of otherwise boring-looking copy stand out and are actually read by potential customers.

3. Use analytics to identify the most boring parts of your website

Dealing with short attention spans isn't always easy, and it can be even more difficult if you aren't paying attention to your analytics. Although it's important not to be overly aggressive in jumping to conclusions when looking at analytics trends, they can provide helpful clues about what content is working and what content isn't. What pages are most popular? Are there pages that consistently drive website exits? If you can't answer questions like these, you're not using analytics to your advantage.

4. Polish your copy

Good copy can mean the difference between capturing attention and closing a sale, or losing attention and missing an opportunity. When it comes to polishing copy, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Just because you're using a copywriter doesn't mean your copy is engaging. A professional copywriter can be a wise investment, but don't assume that copy produced by a copywriter is effective copy that won't need to be polished and revisited from time to time.
  • In many cases, it's possible to say more with less. Far too often, companies believe that verbose copy is necessarily clear copy. It isn't.
  • Storytelling works. Whether you're selling a product or service to consumers or businesses, if you're just providing facts and leaving potential customers to create their own excitement, chances are your copy is going to deliver less optimal results than if you craft a compelling narrative of your own.

5. Don't forget the visuals

Humans are visual creatures and one of the best ways to deal with short attention spans is to give your potential customers something interesting to look at. This isn't an excuse to use cheesy stock photography -- that's almost always a really bad idea -- but high-quality product photography, screenshots, charts, infographics and videos can be very effective in capturing attention.

6. Put yourself in the customer's shoes

When designing and building websites, far too many companies think about their needs and ignore the needs of customers and potential customers. While it's tempting to assume that stakeholders want in-depth information about your products and services, the devil is in the details and how this information is organized and presented makes all the difference. Produce pages that are truly useful in the eyes of customers and potential customers and you stand a much better chance of being rewarded with their attention.

Patricio Robles

Published 14 August, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2391 more posts from this author

Comments (9)

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Andrew Tonks

Andrew Tonks, Senior SEO Account Manager at Red Blue Blur Ideas

couldn't agree with you more about the need to have quality content - so many sites I see each day have overtly long content with little to no thought of the end user and what you want them to do.

about 4 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

7. Inject/impart personality.

This can be through your style of writing (e.g. using appropriate humour) and/or site design. If you do this well you'll convey the fact that there are real people behind the website and not only grab attention but also create an emotional connection with your audience. This can serve you well while they're on your site but also ensure you leave a lasting impression once they've left.

about 4 years ago

Milène Benoist

Milène Benoist, Marketing Manager at ESV Digital

good information. I totally agree that people have short attention span so a good website should convey all relevant information in the shortest amount of time (i target 6 seconds) and if possible each page should have some sort of visual

about 4 years ago

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Jamie Graham

I agree with all the points in the article. I'd also like to add one of my own.

Make it easy for people to get in touch. I've seen so many sites that don't display contact details on their homepages or have any calls to action.

If someone skims your content and wants to get in touch, something like a quick contact form on each page or prominent links to your contact page will help.

I liken it to going into a shop and not seeing any staff around to help you.

about 4 years ago

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Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh, CEO at Zeedna

Looks like a great article, but my short attention span meant that I didn't read past tip #3 :-)

about 4 years ago

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fjpoblam

An important point was conveyed by Steve Krug in "Don't Make Me Think". It involves presenting visitors with what they *will* read versus what you *want* them to read. Important distinction. For webmasters, too (especially those with writing talent), it is a challenge worth attempting, to convince the client to thin and condense the content.

about 4 years ago

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George Smith

I also agree that content is key and making quality content available is one of the best ways to engage with your audience. Analytics is also essential if you want to be able to quantify the success of your website in some way.

about 4 years ago

Louise Dixon

Louise Dixon, Digital Marketing Executive at ResponseTap

It's a good point that the majority of people do just skim websites. The Internet is often seen as being a quick way of finding what you want, so people will look quickly. We shouldn't be counting on them being ready to sit down and study a site page by page. It's called browsing for a reason, so content should definitely take that into account.

about 4 years ago

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Kathy Lawrence

Like the points. But - vested interest here - part of the copywriting job is making the content engaging. And it should be the copywriter polishing the client's words, not the other way round! If we don't do those things, what are we doing for you?

almost 4 years ago

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