The attention span is getting shorter and shorter. Meanwhile, no one reads a complete website from front to back. To catch the user’s attention (and keep it for as long as possible), you can make use of various findings from science. Neuroscience (the science of our brain) provides important guidelines for successful web design and marketing.
Hick’s Law – Less choice, more sales
People are lazy about making decisions. A decision is a complex cognitive process and (simply put) consumes a lot of energy. Your visitors only have a certain amount of energy. Don’t waste your visitors’ decision-making energy by giving them too many choices. Less is more. That’s why you should take decisions away from your visitors as early as the web design stage.
Hick’s Law states that decision time increases with options. The more choices there are, the more cognitive energy you demand from your visitors. And the longer the decision-making process will take.
The infographic shows this test. A jam tasting was carried out. At one tasting stand there were 24 different types of jam. At the other only 6 different types. The result was that the stand with fewer samples sold 10 times as much. So more choice does not mean more sales. Since a higher cognitive decision-making performance is demanded of the customer, many potential customers break off before the conclusion.
What does Hick’s Law mean for your web design?
Limit the number of your menu items. Set priorities and focus on what is important. Each subpage should have exactly one goal and lead the user to this goal (usually an action). Additional distractions should be eliminated.
Prospect Theory – Loss aversion
People are not machines. Their decisions are driven by subjectivity and irrational feelings. But that is what makes us human. The Prospect Theory from 1979 proves that we look at the costs rather than the benefits when calculating costs and benefits. We do not evaluate objectively according to the end result, but rather look at the risks. Losses are overestimated and gains underestimated. This means that losses are perceived more negatively than gains positively.
What does Prospect Theory mean for your web design?
Especially in marketing you can take advantage of this fact. You should emphasize the disadvantages/costs that arise without the product. Costs for your product should be summarized and the advantages should be presented in detail and superficially.
Surely you have seen that a product (or a certain price) is only available for a limited time. This (mostly) artificial scarcity is only meant to boost sales. Popular products seem more attractive to most people. As an example, Apple uses this fact. At market launch, the devices are usually brought to market in a very small number of units, resulting in long delivery times. This suggests a higher popularity to the buyer and makes the product more attractive.
Another influencing technique from marketing is testimonials or customer testimonials. Socialproof is based on a simple psychological phenomenon. When faced with uncertainty, people tend to follow the crowd instead of forming their own judgment. This effect is also an example of avoiding cognitive effort. So the more users talk positively about your product, the better the product must be for the individual. This herd behavior is deeply anchored in the human psyche.
You should definitely include testimonials and/or reviews on your website. This shows your visitors that other customers are also satisfied with your product. In general, I am not a fan of social media integration. However, social media can show your visitors how many people are following you. In addition, certain seals also establish trust. Trusted Shops, Proven Expert and other service providers are suitable for this.
Serial Position Effect – Important at the beginning and end
The Serial Position Effect (also Primacy-Recency-Effect) describes the ability of the brain to remember the beginning and the end of a list/text. In the middle, the attention and memory capacity of a reader is the lowest. The beginning of a list is stored in the long-term memory and the end of the list in the short-term memory.
This effect can of course be applied to different types of content. In general, it is about the brain’s ability to scan and store data. Especially on the Internet, scanning is used as a popular method. Therefore, important things should appear at the beginning and at the end of a web page.
Note: Unfortunately, the serial position effect cannot be used for navigation. A study by the Journal of Usability shows that the order of navigation points does not play a role in their success.
The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for planning, attention and motivation. In neuropsychology, these activities are called executive functions. These actions are strongly connected with the short-term memory. Since the short-term memory can remember a maximum of seven things, your navigation should also get by with seven or fewer navigation points. The fewer the better. For larger website structures, you can work with a two-level navigation. This way you can group related navigation points to give your visitor a better overview.
What does the Serial Position effect mean for your web design?
If the potential customer’s decision is to be made long after reading (> 30 seconds), place the most important elements first. If the decision is to be made immediately after reading, place the most important element last.
On a landing page, you should mention the main benefit of your product at the beginning and compelling extras like free shipping at the end. When your visitors leave the page, they will most likely remember the main benefit.
Restroff effect or control attention with colors
The Restorff effect (named after its discoverer Hedwig von Restorff) was demonstrated in 1933. In an experiment, letters were combined with numbers on a list – with the numbers being the exception. The subjects were better able to remember the items that did not match. You can use this Restorff effect very well as a web designer. Simply color the action elements of a website (i.e. the important interaction elements) in a contrasting color. This makes these elements stand out from the rest of the website and attracts more attention from the visitor.
The study by EyeQuant came to the same conclusion. According to this study, the color of buttons is extremely important for attracting the attention of visitors.
What does the Restorff effect mean for your web design?
The important elements should contrast with the background. Button color and text color should be different. Nearby elements on the website should have a different (similar) color. But what color is suitable for a button now. This depends on several things. Green or blue should be the first choice in many cases.
Simple language even for complex topics
The frontal lobe and the temporal lobe are responsible for language comprehension. This is where language becomes meaning in the brain. The language (i.e. the texts) of your website are very important and determine success or failure.
The easier a text is to read, the more successful the website.
You should avoid long sentences and technical jargon. A simple choice of words means less work for your visitors. This is not about dumbing down. It is proven that even professors and intelligent people prefer simple language. It means less work for their brain. And less work is better for everyone.
You may think that cleverly worded texts make you look competent. However, if your visitors don’t want to engage with your content because they can’t access it, it won’t do you any good in terms of conversion. Therefore, use simple language – you can also use this tool: Hemingway App.
How do you use simple language for your web design?
Avoid sentences longer than 20 words. Nested sentences should be split into several sentences. Stay away from super-smart words and use simple paraphrases instead.
Paragraphs should not be longer than three to four lines. For more information on simple language on the web, you can also read the Web Style Guide. Here you will find further tips.
Loading speeds are crucial
Even though it is in the last place in this article, it is a crucial fact. The loading speed (pagespeed) is and becomes increasingly important. Studies by Google and Microsoft have shown that 40% of visitors leave the page after 3 seconds if it is not completely loaded. The loading speed has an effect on many areas: Visitor satisfaction, bounce rate, conversion and sales.
Many web designers neglect pagespeed. They sacrifice speed for web design. According to a study by HubSpot, 76% of visitors rate content as the most important factor in web design. Therefore, your content should be the top priority and everything around it should be subordinate to information. But be careful: in the first three seconds, the user also evaluates the competence of the website. With bad web design he will not even devote himself to the (possibly) great content.
How to optimize the loading speed of your website
If you use WordPress for your website, you can check out my article on pagespeed optimization for WordPress. If you use another CMS then switch to WordPress today 😉 Or you can start with the Pagespeed Insights Tool from Google. This tool also provides you with optimization tips.