What brain science tells us about website design

July 16, 2014

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span is now just 8 seconds. That doesn’t give us a lot of time to engage website visitors before they lose interest and click elsewhere. Fortunately, the science that is tracking our shrinking attention spans also offers some insights into capturing and retaining that prized commodity.

  • Use bold fonts and colors for the most important copy: Smart nonprofits use big red “Donate” buttons for a reason: they stand out. You can apply this same principle (called the Von Restorff Effect) to highlight other calls to action or featured news.  To see this in action, check out Audubon’s homepage.
  • Pay attention to content order. Research has shown that website visitors are more likely to click on the first or last link they see. So give that prime placement (on menus, for instance) to priority content.  When you have an information-rich website like our partners at ACEEE, this is even more critical.
  • Feature your supporters. Website visitors are more likely to engage with your organization if they see evidence that people they relate to are involved.  Psychologists call this social proof. Our friends at Oregon Environmental Council do a good job of modeling this with their It’s Your Oregon feature.

For even more advice on using brain science to inform website design, check out these posts from SiteTuners, Orbit Media, and unbounce.

Nicole Lampe