Treat your web site visitors like children

Parents rarely agree on how to bring up children; put three mums or dads in a room and ask for a view on any aspect of parenting and you’ll get four different opinions…! However ask them to come up with one factor that is common to all children and they will all agree – children get bored quickly. Children find it difficult to concentrate on anything for very long; their attention span is pretty low.

There is a good reason for this; there is so much material to get inside those developing brains the pace of change would be slow unless children moved quickly from one thing to another. Without the apparent boredom of childhood, we might not actually grow up until we are 42…! OK – maybe some people haven’t, I admit.

But we don’t always lose our child-like qualities. After all, you can be walking in a park and see a grown man walking ahead of you. If he spies a lone football, just watch – he’ll have great difficulty in resisting a kick!

However, our apparent increase attention span as we get older is a smokescreen. It’s a social response to the way we are taught and the demands of work. Inside, though, we want to flit from one thing to the next. Hurrah for the Internet.

People visiting your web site are not working, nor are they engaging in anything that involves other people directly. Hence they resort to type and flit from one thing to another very quickly as a result of our inbuilt low boredom threshold. What people are seeking is emotional stimulation. Newspaper editors know this; every newspaper headline or picture trigger some kind of emotion, whether it is shock, horror or Page 3.

Now, new research confirms that emotion plays a significant part in online advertising. The studies tell us that emotional stimulation helps advertisers work their magic on us. Combined with existing research which shows your web site reader’s eyes flit around the page, constantly seeking stimulation – and the fact they don’t stay on sites for very long – it’s clear what you need to provide.

Web sites need a constantly changing feast of emotionally stimulating material. Otherwise your readers will get bored. And if they get bored, like children, they will be off.

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