Has Your Web Site Got Attention Deficit?

By E. Brown

The two boys slowly crept up toward the mouth of the ancient cave, unaware of the monstrous danger that lurked within it’s rancid subterranean interior…

Have I got your attention?

Authors Thomas Davenport and John Beck of the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change say the economy of the future will be one based on attention. Acquiring, maintaining, and managing attention will be key to the business paradigm of the future.

This certainly has interesting implications on how we might strategize business for the years ahead. Yet today, capturing the eyes of Web surfers and then keeping them is a goal no one with a Web site will refute. We, as content developers and sellers, need to be the most concerned about this because we have businesses to grow and bottom lines to keep.

What are ways by which we can hold the long-term attention of our online visitors and customers? Davenport and Beck suggest some of the following Attention Structures that promote “stickiness”:

  • Change – Provide changes in format, tone, content, etc. This will keep the site interesting to new and repeat visitors.
  • Storytelling – We all love stories – engage your visitor’s imagination and you’ll capture his attention.
  • Convenient Entry and Exit – This may seem contrary at first, but making it easy for users to get in and out will keep them coming back instead of getting frustrated.
  • Action – Avoid passive media. Engage the user through surveys, message boards, chat, games, and other activities.
  • Don’t Interrupt – Interrupting the flow of information should be kept to a minimum. Pop-ups and flickering banners can distract and even destroy the user’s attention.
  • Make it Relevant – If a user feels his/her needs are being met, you will keep them coming back for more.
  • Promote Community – Create a sense of belonging, personalization, and customization. This allows your users to interact with the site and to maintain a sense of ownership over their Web experience.
  • Ease of Use – Be considerate of low-bandwidth users. Create an intuitive navigation and make searching your site easy.

Whether you agree or disagree with this concept, you have to admit that it gets your attention (pun intended). In this world where there are so many competing voices and options, we truly need to be wise in our efforts to share information and provide inspiration.

So, what happened with the two boys walking up to the cave? You’ll have to continue to read this blog to find out… or not.

(Adapted from an article I wrote in June 2003 and published in the NRB trade magazine.)

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