Oct 30, 2018

Designing for Short Attention Spans

We are living in an age of instant gratification — same-day delivery, ride sharing in an instant, and our most pressing questions answered with a quick “Hey Siri.” A study shows that back in 2000 we maintained a whopping 12-second attention span when browsing the web. Today that number has fallen to eight seconds. So how do we catch a moment of attention during the daily scroll? With good, mindful, user-focused design.

Here are a few UX tips to consider when designing your website:

Prioritize “Above The Fold”

What began as a term referring to the top half of a newspaper—visible when folded up in news stands and grocery stores—has been co-opted for the modern age. Digital designers use “above the fold” to refer to the area that is visible on a web page without scrolling. This is a critical area to make a first impression, and your content and design should make the most of it.

Make Navigation Effortless

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to site navigation. A simple hamburger menu, a neat row of links or a clean table of contents are tried-and-true ways to give your users peace of mind and confidence exploring your website. Nothing turns away people like a system they can’t figure out within a few seconds.

Be Smart With Copy

Content hierarchy is likely the most important and challenging part of any design project. In digital design, you’re competing with fast scrolling fingers that will view most of your website as a blur. The solution? Short headlines, thoughtful subheads, bullet points and bite-size paragraphs. Thanks, copywriters!

Make Big Buttons

Big buttons are necessary for mobile navigation, but these days desktop design is taking cues from its portable sibling. For today’s mobile-savvy users, you can increase the button size, make text or images clickable, or both. Give your users multiple, easy points of entry and they’ll thank you for respecting their time.

Avoid the Wheel of Death

An affectionate term for endlessly spinning loading icons, the wheel of death is often caused by videos and photos that are much too large for their user to load quickly. When designing content for web, be sure to export files at an appropriate size—this varies depending on the medium, but here are some good rules of thumb. You’ll save precious seconds and users if your content loads promptly.

Bring Your Content to Life

Successful visual content often has some element of motion. This can range from an infographic video to a looping gif or small animated symbol that helps direct your eye. The advantage of digital media is that the possibilities of motion and interaction are endless. Adding movement to your content may seem like a big lift, but design is all about the details. These additions give your design an extra polish of thoughtfulness, guiding the reader’s experience and informing them along the way.