Why our minds are wild when wired (and how journalists can tame them)

Let’s face it: our attention spans have gotten drastically shorter with the advancement of technology. I haven’t even gotten to the reasons why, and you may already be thinking of clicking away from this page. But hang in there! Here’s what you need to know:

1. Instant Gratification

The Internet provides us with information almost instantly, and if it’s not there (or easy to find), we go elsewhere. So, make your point and make it quickly. On webpages with 111 words or less, readers only read an average of 49% of the text. That goes down to 28% for 593+ words.

2. Layout Optimization

Readers tend to read in an “F-Shaped” pattern (i.e. scan the first two bars of content horizontally, then skim down vertically) so prioritize content according to this format.

3. Click. Stayyy. Gooood Reader

I like to draw the analogy that Internet users are like puppies: they’re excited, over-stimulated, and need a little training. Easy, non-cluttering visuals — like large banner images at the top of a page — not only ease a visitor’s mind, it encourages them to scroll to get to the content they want. And once they start scrolling, they are more likely to continue scrolling.

4. App-ly the Tap/Click Culture

Two apps I really like are Tapestry and MAZ. Tapestry encourages users to pay closer attention, because once they click to the next page of the story, there’s no going back. MAZ is a digital magazine platform that allows for interactive content (videos, webpages, etc.) to be viewed without leaving the original magazine.

For more details on this presentation, check out the slideshow above!

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