Web surfers are like goldfish! Tips to grab their attention

Web surfers, like goldfish, suffer from short–term memory. According to Wikipedia, short-term memory refers to the capacity for holding a small amount of information in mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time.

While discovery channel’s show Mythbusters was able to prove that a goldfish has a longer memory span than commonly believed, I don’t think anyone can really argue that website visitors have the shortest memory/attention span of any other form of communication.

goldfish_03 by Cletus International.

To keep a new site visitor more than few seconds is harder than bringing him in for the first visit. When someone shows up, you don’t want to miss that opportunity of making him stick. The recreation industry figured out that good hospitality is a way to keep their customers coming back for more. Welcoming a visitor online should not be in a less hospital manner. Hospitality on the web means to treat your visitor like a true guest; a guest that needs to be welcomed and looked after. Sometimes good companies don’t realize this and end up with a bad website; it is not what we want for ours.

What can you do to keep your site visitors coming back once they show up? Here is a summary of my research around the Web:

  1. You MUST explain the main service you offer in a very simple and clear manner. Try something new, clear and profound. Place it somewhere at the top of your home page with clear spacing around it in order for it to stand out. That is your elevator pitch, make it right to catch attention.
  2. Highlight your service action button in a blunt clear way. Provide big buttons with clear messages. The fewer the services the better, in order not to confuse your site visitors. If you offer many services, pick the most important three to show on your home page, and provide a link to the full list. Learn from Obama, he raised nearly $200 million online with a simple red big ‘Donate Now’ button.
  3. Provide easy means for feedback with different options ranging from simple like/dislike buttons for lazy users, to full commentary fields. That shows how much you respect and appreciate your visitors’ opinions and make them feel more welcomed.
  4. Provide registration options in one simple easy step right on your home page. Web users are lazy. Try to gather minimal information at first step and give optional additional fields for users interested in going the extra mile. When I first landed on Facebook’s homepage, I didn’t have to think twice, the sign up fields were there and ready to be filled.
  5. In terms of writing style whether it is a blog post or an editorial column, there are two major things to keep in mind: Storytelling and Attitude. Humans are storytellers by nature; we want to hear stories and like to repeat them. Attitude also serves as a mean to distinguish your character and adds to your site’s credibility.
  6. Build an innovative user experience. We are in an era where rich media content applications are easy to implement. New pleasant experiences would easily catch the eye of your new site visitors. It also adds to your site’s credibility. It is certainly what kept people hooked to Google Maps and Apple’s iPhone.
  7. Diverse your ways of giving information. Some people are more visual than others, if an illustration can sum up a long article, then I would go for it. It adds a visual element to your site and helps attract people’s attention.
  8. Add ‘Add this’ button, it gives your visitors an easy way to bookmark your website and share it with their friends and social networks.

The world is becoming faster and faster each day, people on the web find it hard to focus on what they really want with the flood of information out there. Simplicity and direct communication may be the way to stand out and get the attention of our goldfish attention spanned visitors before they jump to another website.

One question left to end up this post: What caught your attention to read it? :)

P.S: Thank you Cletus International of Flikr for the adorable goldfish photo.

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