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Inattentional Blindness

Inattentional Blindness

We have already learned earlier that we humans, are easily distracted (A Psychologist’s take on UX Design – Part II). There is so much going on around us, all at the exact same time, that it is difficult for our brain to process all of the information and pay attention to everything physically. So what it does is, it filters out most of the data and only keeps what it can process.

Everyday on the web, new websites and applications are being available and it is now harder than ever to catch the attention of users. We, ourselves, browse through so many sites and applications during the day, but how much attention do we actually pay to the details?

Psychology researchers Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons have been studying human attention for over a decade. What they found from their research is that, what we pay attention to is based primarily on what we want to accomplish. When we log on to a website, we already have a task that we want to accomplish. Chances are, we will be so focused on reaching our goal that we will miss any new changes on the website. Researchers call this phenomenon “Inattentional Blindness”.

Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness, is a psychological lack of attention that is not associated with any vision defects or deficits. It may be further defined as the event in which an individual fails to recognize an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight (Wikipedia).

How does it apply to UX design?

Imagine spending months on user research and design to come up with a new feature for your website. You implement the feature to your site and wait for users to start using it. After checking the analytics, you realise that users are completely ignoring it even though it is right there in front of their eyes. Chances are there is nothing wrong with your design but it has been ignored because our brains often fails to process what is there in front of us.

How can you avoid it?

The solution is pretty simple. They are:

  • Know what your user wishes to accomplish by using your site – e.g, If you have a website for buying groceries, your user will just want to buy groceries from it. Once you know what they want, you have to provide them with the simplest possible method to accomplish their goals.
  • Provide only what is necessary – Do not fill your site with unwanted information. You cannot distract the user by asking him to multitask or showing him flashy ads. And you alone or your team can never decide what your user needs. You can only give your user what they need after you carry out proper user research and then use your insights and knowledge to find the best possible way to provide the necessary information.
  • Make your page easy to scan :
    1. Create a visual hierarchy for the user
    2. Make it obvious about what the user needs to do on each page
    3. Keep the most important element is places where the user will see it
    4. Use headings, make your paragraphs short, and use bullet points for lists
  • Use exploratory user research to uncover the things you have missed- Carrying out user research is the best possible method to fully understand the user’s need. It helps you to understand the perspective of a user and how they accomplish tasks. You might not be able to replicate what all your user wants but you can come up with the best possible match that will satisfy most of the users.
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