Some time ago I read an article on BBC News. Shouldn’t be any news by now, so I’ll be direct here:
Web surfers have a painfully short attention span, one that matches the goldfish’s 9 seconds
long short attention span.
Wait. According to the latest statistics verified by The Associated Press, I am supposed to say that we — would have preferred to use “web surfers” in place of “we” but isn’t it the same any way — have an attention span that is shorter than the goldfish’s 9 seconds short attention span. As of most current, we have an attention span of 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000.
Let me gather my thoughts to see where this advice-driven article is headed. To tell you how drastic that drop in length of attention span is — what it means to advertising, to marketing, to web design and copywriting. What hacks and techniques you should use in light of the 8-second attention span dotcom landscape.
Or I can tell you why you should completely ignore all of the above, because if those are your counter-tactics you’re looking at the wrong picture. Don’t.
If you haven’t move past the stage of obsessing over every latest piece of statistical findings and quoting quantitative research excessively to back up an argument, keep moving on.
But here’s the spoiler (and I’m saying this with so much confidence you can quote me on it), the average attention span of web visitors in 2013, 2014 and 2015 is never going to increase. The 6-second-attention-span is bound to come. Maybe 5, even 4 seconds. Why are we even surprised when statistics have shown that our average attention span is now shorter than a gold fish’s and down by one-third since 2000?
Does it matter?
Yes, it matters but only up to the point where it reminds us, brand owners, businesses, advertisers and marketers, how limited time we have to capture our audience’s attention.
Does the 8-second-attention span, or any further quantitative research, tells us anything more than what we don’t already know? Hardly.
So take my advice. Ignore what these latest statistics are yelling at you. Focus, instead, on creating compelling content that are necessarily informative yet pleasantly consumable for the average users. Find the delicate balance. If you’ve been doing that for the longest time ever, congratulations because you’re doing something right from the beginning.
Seriously, if you’re a user interface designer or digital marketer that has the slightest clue of great user experience, how does the revelation of a shortening attention span aids your decision making?
Focus on writing for the average web users. The average web users is impatient, often juggling between tabs, and is keen on digestible chunks of information as compared to what most of the web pages out there care to offer.
If need be, study the browsing patterns of your demographic and see what eye-tracking analysis says about the allocation of their attention in the first 8 seconds or so. Do they scan the headline first and shift their gaze to the big yellow button on the right? Do they even look at the third column on the right where most of your ads are slotted neatly?
Use eye-tracker analysis, A/B testing techniques, run multivariate experiments, and develop tests with tools like Google’s Content Experiments in the beginning. Follow up by conducting usability testing and track your conversion rate across all channels and platforms regularly. Compare lead capture and track average time spent per visit on your important pages. With all the free and readily accessible tools out there, you owe it to yourself in making the best out of your inbound marketing strategy.
Those statistics — like this one that tells you webpages with 111 words or less have 49% of its text read, while webpages with 593 words have only 28% of its text read — are helpful in determining the level of brevity in your delivery, and the presentation of information in respect to the visitor’s increasingly shortening attention span.
But statistics that tell you how the average user has now got an attention span of 8 seconds or less (highly probable in the future)? I say you ignore them completely and fix your focus.
If you’re asking the wrong questions all this while about what these psychological test and latest quantitative data shows about human’s attention span, now is the time to stop.
And regain perspective about creating a perfectly sticky, conversion-proof site.