Massimo and I were at a client meeting the other day and the subject of rotating banners came up in the discussion. We know that clients want to put emphasis on specific items, especially on their home page. They want to draw the audiences’ attention by resorting to flash, sliding photo galleries or other eye-catching techniques. What they may not realize is that they may be diluting their website’s effectiveness and sales conversion. To explain, here are two brain science facts that affect user experience:
When Things Move
One of the oldest parts of our brain is the limbic system. Also known as the Emotional Brain, it primarily deals with stress (particularly related to survival). It’s designed to determine if something is a threat and/or if action is required. Fight or Flight. When we see movement this part of our brain kicks in. It’s a natural reflex, one that higher thinking can’t turn off. So when we’re presented with movement of a web page, it subconsciously disrupts our user experience. It may be subtle and take only milliseconds, but we’re distracted. You’re distracting us from the text we’re reading. You’re distracting us from deciding what to do next, like “Get a Free Consultation” or “Download this White Paper” or “Add to Cart.”
Improving a website’s performance is built upon a myriad of factors. Why create a user experience that unnecessarily detracts (rather than focuses) a visitor to your desired end result? In our opinion there is really only one exception to this guideline: when you want to strategically focus a visitor to items like photos. For example, we’ve used a rotating photo gallery on a home page for businesses that specialize in a visually-oriented service (e.g. home improvement, art).
Too Many Choices
Princeton’s famous cognitive psychologist George A. Miller published a paper on the number of items an average human brain can hold in working memory. Commonly referred to as Miller’s Law, it argues that we can hold 7 items (plus or minus 2) in our short-term memory. So how does this little factoid apply to user experience? Think about your navigational bar. How many items are on it? We recommend five whenever possible. It keeps the design clean. More importantly, visitors perceive it as uncomplicated and easy to use. By limiting choice and using brain science to your advantage, you’ll actually improve your online sales ratio.
If you’re interested in other brain quirks, then here are 8 more.
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