12 distractions on one landing page: Is your website better?

4 min. read | Last updated: December 7th, 2017

Your prospects are overwhelmed.

They’re trying to understand what you offer and how it fits their needs. But, they have too much going on in their head to process it all.

Your cluttered, over-designed and complex website isn’t helping. You may be surprised how little it takes to tax their understanding.

You see, our brains are like computer CPUs. We may think we’re smart, but we have limited processing power and any “application” we run can use it up and reduce our ability to process other applications (e.g. other streams of information).

Your prospects arrive on your website with pre-existing thoughts, concerns, feelings, questions, and external influences. They’re trying to understand what you’re telling them, but their attention span is stretched thin.

Then, they arrive on your landing page. Every design element, graphic, product option, copy block, unanswered question, misalignment, etc. gives them one more thought to allocate their limited capacity to.

The problem is distraction

It’s one of the six conversion factors in the LIFT Model. It means that the more visual stimulus and action options your visitors have to process, the less likely they are to convert. Minimizing distractions like unnecessary product options, links and extraneous information can significantly increase the conversion rate.

Landing page examples abound

Distraction is common in websites. Here’s an example of a typical PPC landing page (also a home page!) for Enterprise Rent-A-Car which has some major Distraction issues.

LIFT analysis of Enterprise car rental Distraction points
Enterprise car rental has Distraction challenges

Research shows the effects of distraction

Think back to the last time you were driving a car to a new location. Maybe you were looking for street names, landmarks, or a building address. Did you turn down the music in the car?

If you did, you’re not alone.

Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, has this to say about talking on cell phones while driving:

Directing attention to listening effectively “turns down the volume” on input to the visual parts of the brain. The evidence we have right now strongly suggests that attention is strictly limited—a zero-sum game. When attention is deployed to one modality—say, in this case, talking on a cell phone—it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality—in this case, the visual task of driving.

When we focus our attention on something, we reduce our ability to think about or even perceive other things, even when those other things would otherwise have been obvious. Our brain-CPUs get clogged up with the earlier things they process and run out of power.

Can you spot the gorilla?

There’s more research on this subject too.

A study by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, authors of The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us, demonstrate this odd characteristic of people. In the study, Simons and Chabris instructed viewers to watch a video and count how many times the players wearing white passed a basketball.

As viewers concentrated on counting the passes, a gorilla walked through the middle of the basketball players and beat its chest. In the research, fully half the people who watched the video missed the gorilla as though it was invisible. It’s not that the viewers didn’t recognize the gorilla—their mental processing power was simply focused on performing one task, at the expense of their other mental applications.

Daniel simons gorilla distraction research
Figure provided by Daniel Simons

If you’ve conducted usability tests on your website or applications, you’ve probably wondered how people can miss the most obvious things on your page. You may have questioned how they could be so clueless.

The good news is that they’re not. They’re completely normal. As people, they can process only so much information at one time. Another mental process is using up their ability to see the obvious thing that you want them to.

How to fix distraction

This is an important concept to understand when conducting heuristic analyses of your communications. Even small changes to your messages, page layouts, and user interactions can have a significant impact on freeing your prospects’ mental capacity so they can understand your message.

Understanding is the basic prerequisite to motivation. By smoothing out these mental difficulties, you’ll be more successful at persuading your prospects to act.

That’s where a conversion rate optimization framework like the LIFT Model can help. By analyzing your marketing experiences from the perspective of your prospects, you can get into the mindset of minimizing barriers to cognition.

Start by looking for the Distraction points. Extraneous information, copywriting, design gradients and boxes, and complex forms. Test cutting out the unnecessary, smoothing the jagged and cutting your copy.

Run an A/B test with your original and your lower Distraction variations to find out which elements cause the biggest problems.

Here are many more case studies with landing page examples.

Have you tested to reduce Distraction in your marketing communications? What results have you seen?


Chris Goward

Founder & CEO

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