Designing for the Distracted Consumer

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Modern consumers have an unprecedented amount of devices accessible to them, and they’re using them in greater number than ever before. A recent study by Adobe found that 83% of global consumers use, on average, 2.23 devices at the same time.

The study also found that about 9 in 10 of these digital consumers will either switch devices or stop viewing current content if a web page takes too long to load or is too lengthy.

Many of those surveyed said they viewed the display and design of the webpage as the most important factors in their browsing experience.

Those surveyed in the United States had the highest amount of simultaneous device usage, with respondents reporting they used an average of 2.42 devices at one time. Using devices simultaneously meant browsing the Web online while checking social media on a smartphone, for example.

A Positive Display Experience

Of the Adobe survey’s respondents, 65% ranked how content is displayed as the most important factor when viewing content online or on another device. Many also want an “overall good design” experience, citing good photography and an appealing layout as crucial factors.

The survey found that 89% of digital consumers would switch devices or leave the website completely if the content they were looking at didn’t meet quality, length or formatting expectations. Don’t hide content behind large pop-ups, and avoid having any videos or sounds that auto-play unless someone lands on that page explicitly to view that content.

Make It Mobile Friendly

The device a consumer is using to view your content can have a huge impact on how well that content is perceived. Websites that are not properly optimized for a mobile device, for example, are frustrating users.

Adobe said that 79% of survey participants would leave a webpage or stop viewing content if it didn’t display well on their device.When the iPhone first launched, customers forgave under-optimized content, relying on pinch and zoom to navigate full websites from their tiny screens.

But since that time, the landscape changed dramatically, where mobile sites are the expectation, not the exception. If you don’t have a touch-friendly website, you could see an increased bounce rate and reduced traffic as more users switch to their mobile devices for shopping.

To the left is an example of a popular website that is currently not mobile friendly. In April, Google released an update to their ranking algorithm that displays different results if customers search from their mobile devices. Before this update, the owner of @U2 wrote a post on Search Engine Land about how he feared the update would negatively impact his site.

A study immediately after found that, in some cases, the site did experience some keyword slippage. For authoritative sites in niche markets, such as @U2, their brand authority helped them weather the brunt of the update. If you’re looking to break into a new market, or if your existing market is highly competitive, you cannot afford to ignore mobile design.

Make It Easy To Read

Overall, Adobe found that today’s audience wants a shorter read. About 67% of survey respondents said they would leave the content if it was too long. Producing content that quickly gets the point across to your readers is key. This is useful if you’re providing a quick answer to a question, but not if you’re writing to inform your users about a more complex topic.

If you’re writing a blog post or a longer article, consider breaking up the piece into easily digestible segments using headings that give your customers an idea of what the paragraphs under it will contain. This way, readers can quickly scan the section headings if they’re only looking for specific information.

The Trust Factor

Customer won’t stay on a website that they feel is untrustworthy. For small companies without an established brand, one way you can establish authority is by displaying trust signals. For eCommerce sites, a common way to do this is by displaying payment badges, your BBB certification, and any other professional endorsements. This lets shoppers know that brands they respect do business with you, making it more likely for them to be comfortable buying from you.

Other trust signals include user testimonials or reviews. If someone’s not familiar with your brand, it’s not uncommon for them to read what other customers have to say about their shopping experience. Word of mouth advertising still exists online, but instead of getting advice from a friend on the phone, customers are turning to Facebook, Yelp!, and your star ratings.

Make it Personal

Consumers can be willing to share personal information with retailers but value being asked for permission first. Seventy-three percent of consumers surveyed were okay with retailers suggesting products for them based on disclosed personal information or past purchase history. In addition, 75% said they are willing to share at least one piece of personal information in order to improve recommendations.

However, there are consumers who may not be comfortable with sharing personal details. About 40% of those surveyed believe companies could do something further to ease any security concerns they may feel. Twenty-five percent said that if a company asked for permission, they would be more inclined to provide personal information.

Show Your Funny Side

Are you looking to become more relatable? The Adobe report found that humor is an easy way to make an impression with your consumers. Seventy percent of respondents said they felt it was easier to relate to a company when its content was funny.

However, being a brand that your consumers find entertaining is hard work. Only 14% of respondents actually felt that company-produced content was humorous. Before attempting humor, be sure to carefully consider if the joke or image lines up with the culture and values of your customers. While a funny ad helps generate good will, content that alienates or confuses your customers could have the opposite effect.

Give Them What They Want

The simplest way to meet the needs of a distracted consumer is to give them the information they’re looking for as quickly and as easily as possible. Don’t hide valuable content behind annoying popups, or force users to scroll through unrelated content until they find what they’re looking for. If someone finds the answer they’re looking for on your website, they’re much more likely to return.

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