Are you ready for the era of “short attention span publishing“? As noted in a previous post, usability around “task completion” or “success rate” is the real measure of a Web site’s value, and this is only going to be more important in the future.

Short attention span publishing becomes apparent in a recent interview with the BBC, in which Jakob Nielsen calls Internet users “ruthless” and sees that they exhibit little patience for promotions or areas designed to make them linger and browse. Yet, publishers continue to push these types of interactive spaces, adding “object overhead” that delay page loads, pushing features that are distracting from task completion, and basically wasting users’ time.

One fact drew my attention particularly:

In 2004, about 40% of people visited a homepage and then drilled down to where they wanted to go and 60% use a deep link that took them directly to a page or destination inside a site. In 2008, said Dr Nielsen, only 25% of people travel via a homepage. The rest search and get straight there.

This has huge implications for site architectures that perpetuate the Web 1.0 model of hierarchy. Basically, hierarchy works 25% of the time, and falling.

That said, it’s important to note that these are general Internet trends. Scholars are probably more tolerant of immersive environments, and when in the mode of seeking novel information, are more likely to browse. But the implications are clear — even the huge attention spans in scholarship are diminishing as immediate information gratification becomes the norm.

Get ready for short attention span publishing.

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.