If you’re like most bloggers, you probably consider page views as the main metric for measuring your blog’s success.
However, as many expert bloggers and content marketers would tell you, page views is only one part of a more complex analytical game. It may be the standard metric used in the traditional publishing industry, but it’s not everything.
Perhaps an even more important metric you should focus on, if you haven’t yet, is the time visitors spend on your blog. Whereas page views only give you an idea of the traffic, the time spent gives you an overall picture of how good your user experience is. It gives you insights on how to customize your content for your target audience and build better relationships in the process.
In short, would you rather have 100,000 views a day but not a single conversion or only a moderate number of page views with a great conversion rate?
Short Attention Spans, Multitasking, and Brainpower
These days, people have become more connected than ever thanks to the rapid development of smartphones, tablet computers, WiFi hotspots, and 3G. This means information has become more accessible. And while this looks like a good thing at face value, it’s devastating to the modern day consumers’ attention span.
Today’s digital age has encouraged “instant fixes” and “instant gratification” among consumers. A study says that during the past decade, an average adult can stay focused on something for about 12 minutes without getting distracted. These days, that’s down to 5 minutes.
Along with high-speed Internet and massive information comes multitasking. People spend their time online reading the news, connecting on social media, browsing sites and watching videos – all simultaneously.
Unfortunately, while the human brain is a complex machine that’s able to perform numerous tasks, it too has certain limitations.
The brain is not designed for multitasking as many studies suggest. Marcel Just, director of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University conducted an experiment where he and his team asked participants to drive and talk at the same time.
The experiment showed that while driving and speaking at the phone can be done (most of us have already tried this at some point), the allocation of brain power to driving goes down by 37 percent as evidenced in the driving simulator. The simulator tests how well the driver maintains their lane and whether or not they hit the side of the road.
In short, while multitasking is doable, it certainly takes away the quality away from the main task. You probably already know this if you’re someone who always juggles numerous tasks at once.
What Does This Mean for Content Publishers?
With this knowledge, two things are clear: One, getting your messages across quickly has never been more crucial. And two, bombarding your audience with lots of things is counter-intuitive. If it encourages multitasking, it encourages attention fragmentation which ultimately dampen your efforts in getting your point across.
So how do you improve your content’s user-experience with these things in mind? Here are three practical tips to consider.
1. Learn the Impact of Simplicity
When it comes to visiting a new website, there’s nothing more off-putting than a site that has many things going on at once. Maybe it’s the slider at the homepage that quickly slides from one information to the next. Or perhaps it’s the multiple columns, ads and unnecessary elements that overwhelm the senses and scare visitors away.
A Google study revealed that people favor simple website designs over their “visually complex” counterparts. Perhaps this has something to do with what scientists call cognitive fluency. The idea behind this is that the brain prefers to think about things that are simple and easy to process.
This is the reason why you prefer a site where you instinctively know how to navigate it: where to leave comments, how to find the person’s contact information, what the ‘About Me’ page entails, etc.
So as much as possible, opt for a simpler designs, especially if your main goal is to get visitors to read your articles or blog posts. If the focus of your message is on the written word, then let there be no other elements competing for your readers’ attention. An exception here is when adding interesting images to supplement your message.
A great example of this is Leo Babauta’s zenhabits.net. Its minimalist look is tastefully designed to keep all focus on the content. Each current blog post is displayed at the homepage and the page links are at the bottom of the website. There are also no sidebars, popups, and other elements that could distract readers.
2. Cater to Scanners
A majority of Internet users today are scanners. They breeze through each web page, only looking for the most useful tidbits of information. Additionally, they are turned off by massive blocks of text without proper transition points that allow them to scan for the information most relevant to them.
As much as we like visitors to read every word of content we publish, studies suggest that’s hardly the case. A research study from Nielsen Norman Group showed that “On the average web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”
So how do you go about this? Make your content easy for readers by splitting your paragraphs into a few sentences. Many writers optimize their content for the web by following the Rule of Three: for every 3 sentences, insert a line break to start a new paragraph.
Of course, it doesn’t always make sense to break your paragraphs into strictly three sentences. But the key message here is to shorten your paragraphs into digestible, manageable chunks to help your readers find the information most relevant to them.
Another way to make your content scannable is by using lists. Lists are an easy and practical way to get ideas across so it’s no wonder readers and publishers equally love them.
Also, if you’re writing in-depth articles, include some Key Takeaways at the end. It gives a summary of what your article is about and perfectly caters to scanners.
One great example of this is Heidi Cohen’s content marketing blog. She’s known for notoriously exploiting lists in virtually all her blog posts. Her posts prove how the list format can succinctly organize several ideas which would otherwise be a convoluted mess if thrown out as say, a narrative format without the use of bullet points.
3. Wage War With Flowery Prose
Jane Austen type of writing may have been acceptable decades ago. But we all know that’s no longer the case. The Internet is a huge, noisy, congested space where everyone is fighting for attention. So it only makes sense to capture your reader’s attention and capture it quick.
A University of Princeton research study conducted an experiment where they tested different essays ranging from simple to very complex. Out of all the options, the simplest essay was given the highest rating in terms of readability.
The best way to enhance your content’s readability is through simple writing. By simple, this means moving away from big words and lengthy descriptions. As a general rule, if a word or phrase requires readers to look it up in the dictionary (or Google), it should be replaced with a simpler version. Be concise. Don’t use long sentences if you can tell something in just a few words.
One great tool for testing your content’s readability is the Hemingway app. It uses the Flesch-Kincaid formula which is a standard in the journalism field. This tool gives suggestions on how to tone down your content for reading ease. Strive for Grade 8 level or below for optimal readability.
Most successful bloggers are already doing this so examples shouldn’t be hard to find. But one great illustration is the CashMoneyLife.com. Topics like finance can easily err into complex, boring discussions that no one likes to read. But this blog does a great job in turning hard to understand subject matters like investments and taxes into clear, easy to understand, even fun reads.
- The average attention span of today’s consumers is continually shrinking. Get your message out quick!
- The brain may be a complex machine that can perform numerous functions but efficiency-wise, it does have its limits.
- A visually creative website may be nice and all, but… it can take the focus away from your core message. Simplify your website. If you should use visuals, make sure they are supplementing your message rather than drowning them.
- Accept that most visitors scan pages rather than read content word by word. Make it easy for them to figure out your message. Avoid long blocks of text and use lists.
- Use plain language. They’re easier to understand and more memorable than lengthy prose.
What do you think? What are you doing to improve User Experience on your content? Let us know in the comments below!