Thanks to the Internet, the information age continues to evolve, as are humans…even if we don’t see it day-to-day. It’s amazing to me that our attention spans seem to be shrinking by the year… some say to just 7 seconds… that’s right, 7 seconds. Marketers like to cite news articles that humans have less attention span than a gold fish or that our attention spans are getting shorter by the year. But is that really true!?
According to Patti Shank, PhD in her article “Attention And The 8-Second Attention Span,” humans are of course much more complex than goldfish. When dealing with information, the human brain does a lot of preprocessing, that we’re often not aware of, while we are interpreting the world around us. And over the last 15 years, with all the smart phones and other tech connected to the Internet (“Hello Google”), we humans are inundated with information.
So, while it seems like our attention spans may be getting shorter, what’s really going on is humans are just becoming more proficient at weeding through all that information. We may be looking for something specific or perhaps curiosity leads us to something that piques our attention. The latter is really what Marketing professionals are seeking… how to pique our curiosity in order to grab our attention.
Why is 7 Seconds Important
In an article from Adweek “Why Brands and Agencies Are Preparing for the Era of 6-Second Ads,” the writer Christopher Heine discusses how shorter and easier to digest videos are better for first time visitors. For them, it’s important to make an impression quickly, so they want to read more or find out more about your product or service. That doesn’t mean that all video and content needs to be created for just 6 or 7 seconds. The idea is to create content that quickly leads viewers and readers into a decision. A 6 second video forces the advertiser to be focused about the message, but for longer and more involved content, you can use the same rule to lead into more involved content. In fact, if your content is catering to returning visitors or customers, you can use longer videos and content to keep them engaged.
Short Attention Spans for Website Content
So, now we know 7 seconds is the threshold for a human’s attention span, but how do we use that in website design? It should start with using images and titles that make an impact or impression in order to keep the readers attention. This is especially true of your high traffic pages, like your home page or landing pages. You want your content simple, to the point, and easy to see (especially for mobile). Use images, titles, and color that provoke emotion. And as always, if you’re selling a product or service, you should have a strong call-to-action (CTA) that is highly visible.
It’s also important to remember people don’t initially read when visiting websites, they scan. So, using short titles and descriptions on high traffic landing pages is a great way to lead your visitors into a more involved topic or buying decision. If they see something that grabs their attention, they are more likely to take more time reading your content.