January 4, 2019

Cutting Through The Noise: Tips And Tricks For Capturing And Keeping Users’ Attention

By Kyle Cassidy, Head Of User Experience Design & Insights, at Dept

Are you one of the 80 per cent of people who check their smart phones before brushing their teeth? Before we’ve even said good morning to our loved ones, most of us can be found scrolling through Twitter to check what is going on in the world, aimlessly scrolling through Instagram to see what our friends are up to, or clearing down our WhatsApp notifications.

The amount of content that is available for us to consume at any point of the day or night has reached epic proportions. When Twitter first launched in 2007, users published 5000 tweets a day. Today, the figure stands at 500 million. On WordPress alone, there are nearly 75 million blog posts published every month, and we share 3.2 billion images every day.

With so much content being created and shared every second, how do content marketers cut through the noise to capture and keep users’ attention?

Cutting Through The Noise

In order to cut through the noise, content marketers must focus our attention on one thing and one thing only: what makes users click?

The first step to getting people engaging with your content is to draw them in with a catchy headline that captures attention. So, what makes a good headline?

1. Use What, Why, How, Or When

‘What’, ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ act as trigger words. Names of people, places and events can capture users’ attention, especially if they are tailored or personalised to our likes and interests. For example:

  • What happened at this year’s Web Summit?
  • Sir David Attenborough on Plastic and our Oceans
  • Trump calls truce in China Trade War.
2. Use Numbers

Numbers are easy to scan, easy to understand and effectively show what you’re getting if you click the article. For example:

  • The top 10 gifts for Christmas
  • Human evolution explained in 5 minutes
  • 12 most effective fitness workouts
  • 16 must read books of 2019.
3. Focus On Benefits

Another common technique, is to focus on what the user will gain from reading the content. When people click a link, there is a value exchange. They will trade their time if they think the article will provide them with something beneficial, whether that be knowledge, entertainment or enlightenment. Clearly state what your article will give them. For example:

  • The most effective time management techniques
  • Increase your reading speed in 5 simple steps
  • How to train less and still loose weight.

Keeping Users Attention

So, you’ve managed to get someone to click your catchy headline. Now what? Once you have your users present, the next challenge is to keep their attention by making content as immersive and engaging as possible.

1. Make It Visual

The human brain is pre-wired to processes images much faster than words. This has been scientifically proven time and time again, yet still a lot of content marketers pour hours into writing long form content.

The next time you’re writing long pieces of content for the digital domain, be critical and ask yourself where you could replace chunks of text with quick visual references or video. Not only will this allow you to reduce the load on your user, but images and videos can also make your content more memorable.

An excellent example of this is the award-winning, immersive story-telling piece The Guardian produced on the Bushfire at Dunalley. Here, users are told the story of the fire through a series of videos, interviews, and snippets of content. It’s hugely emotive and very impactful.


Visual story telling combines video and audio content into immersive experiences.

2. Make It Move

Movement attracts attention. This goes back to how our brains were pre-wired from our hunter-gather days to spot movements of potential prey on the horizon as we searched for food.

In a more digital context, online practices such as scroll animations, can be added to bring content to life and make it enjoyable.

These don’t have to be full screen experiences as we saw in The Guardian example. The New York Times Greenland Is Melting Away uses scroll animations between large portions of copy to show the impact of data collection at three different levels.

This way of using using scroll animation over a map-based interface creates an interesting visual narrative to keep users engaged.


Scroll animations can be used to tell a visual narrative.

3. Fill The Time

Sometimes, delays on the web are inevitable as the browser has to go and fetch and render assets, as well as execute various connections to CDN’s and Marketing Tools.

While delays should be kept to a minimum, to avoid users loosing attention, subtle animated loading screens or skeleton screens can be adopted. It’s been proven that implementing such screens reduces users’ perceived wait time.

The messaging platform Slack provides users with the following animated GIF while the app loads in the background. The time here is used to provide users with various tips and tricks on how to use and customise the Slack Interface.


The loading screen on the Slack app is used to educate users on new features and controls.

Facebook deploys a similar technique in its adoption of the Skeleton Screen it displays as users launch the mobile app on their devices. The layout users see is a skeleton of the final interface which will be displayed, while the full page loads in the background. Delivering information like this incrementally helps to reduce users’ perceived wait time.

4. Encourage Interaction

Gamification is an excellent way to make users involved and engaged with your content. Even the simplest of gaming mechanisms can trigger a dopamine rush, creating feelings of pleasure and enjoyment.

Gamification is the use of game elements (point-scoring, levels, competition with others, measurable evidence, ratings and rules of play), in non-game contexts. Many brands have already embraced it as a form of customer engagement to great success. One of the longest running and most successful examples is McDonald’s Monopoly campaign. Customers are given opportunities to win money and other prizes, but they have to buy McDonald’s products to participate.

5. Motivate Users

When creating content, use cues and signals to encourage users to complete actions. Good UX should guide people through your content seamlessly and effortlessly. Visual design can play a large part in this, especially when there’s a conversion requirement in your content.

The below example of Hilary Clinton’s campaign form has a number of signals to encourage donations. From the choice of image (Hilary looking expectantly at the form), through to the bold CTA and the indication on the form that there’s only three steps, all work powerfully together to instigate action.

The donation form on Hillary Clinton’s campaign form used visual cues to make users focus on the donation form.

The personalisation of content can also be extremely powerful. Take, for example, Tiffany’s app that uses AR to show users what a ring would look like on their finger.

The Tiffany app uses AR to allow users to see what a ring would look like on their finger.

If you can use your content to help users visualise using your products, you’re already a step closer to a sale.

Make 2019 The Year Of Great Content

If you’re still producing long form blogs, now’s the time to stop and rethink your content. As the way we consumer content evolves and adapts, so should your content strategy.

The best content is easy to consume, engaging, and impactful. Swap words for images, static for animated, and instructions to game play. Your users will thank you for it.

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By Kyle Cassidy, Head Of User Experience Design & Insights, at Dept