Hit play and watch. Click and receive. People expect instant visual gratification and if your website doesn’t provide, they quickly dismiss you as dated or difficult to digest. The good news is that with a few simple adjustments, you can refresh your content-heavy website to cater to this demand -- and keep viewers engaged.

The Great Attention Deficit

Attractive, visual UIs are partially responsible for people’s intolerance of wordy, dense content. Netflix, YouTube and Pandora disrupted the home entertainment industry by allowing users to instantly find and ingest the content of their choice. Amazon has a similar effect on products and shopping, enabling users to get products shipped to their door in three clicks or less.

Users expect to immediately gratify their need for visuals and action on every screen size. Websites that don’t fit the bill are likely to be overlooked. Research shows that users read about 20 percent of the text on a given page and are likely to leave within 10 seconds if a website doesn't capture their interest.

Nip Inattention in the Bud

There’s an uphill battle against inattention, made worse by the fact that you must now engage users quickly on multiple screen sizes. A few simple adjustments, however, will ensure that you catch users’ eyes more quickly and keep their attention.

1. Provide a 3-Point Punch on the Landing Page

The following formula, used today by many successful companies, is a quick way to overcome users’ natural attention shortage. Using this formula on all of your most popular pages is a better option, if you have the time and resources.

  • Make the brand icon and tagline visible, often in the left- or right-hand corner of the page.
  • Make the value proposition clear by highlighting a quick tagline or two, either under the brand name or towards the center of the page.
  • Place a large visual in the middle of the page. This photo, video, slideshow, animation or drawing is generally interesting, compelling and illustrates clearly the value the brand provides. GoPro has an interesting action video, Ford has an attractive color photo of its latest car lineup, Pantene has a slideshow of models with shiny hair.

2. Provide Opportunities for Action

It’s important to display visuals in all their potential forms. Photos, videos and animations are a must -- and so are visuals that encourage action, in the form of different types of buttons, sliders, stars for reviews, fill in fields and anything else that makes users move their fingers.

Ideally, you’ll provide as many options as possible to interact with your site on each page. Giving users the ability to touch, click, fill in, slide and scroll encourages engagement, which translates to more time spent on your website and more brand information absorbed. Include calls to action in your text, too: “Find the best product for you,” “Estimate your costs” and the like.

Another rule of thumb is to think about engaging some of the physical senses on each page of your website: touch, sight and sound.

3. Make Your Visuals Work on Every Screen Size

Adaptive and responsive design, which enable websites to auto-size to different screens, are a must for every website today. Users tend to navigate away when they have to work too hard to see content, often defecting to the competition. It’s worth the investment to find a designer or template that will make your website responsive to screen size.

4. Use Visuals to Your Advantage in Search

Your visuals are actually a powerful SEO tool, if you take certain measures to help them gain traction on search engines. These include:

  • Caption all of your images. This makes users less likely to go back to search engine results page after viewing your image, which in turn improves SEO rankings.
  • Give all of your images a filename that describes their content. This is more indexing fodder.
  • Add alt image text to your image tags. This describes the content of pictures to search engines, making them easier to index.
  • Translate all of your image text. Translated content is ranked more highly on search engines, and you also exponentially multiply the amount of content, another plus for indexing.

When you combine the steps above into a simple, streamlined website with clear calls to action and short chunks of text, you’ll have today’s version of an attractive website, one that keeps users engaged. If you haven’t yet, updating your website for the short attention span is on of the worthiest investments you can make in your future success.