In music, it’s called dynamics. In journalism, it’s called the inverted pyramid. In medicine, it’s known as triage. At their core, these terms all mean “giving emphasis to what is most important.” Remember the economics teacher played by Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Anyone? Anyone?)? His comedically monotone voice put his students into a trance. That’s what happens without dynamics: because nothing is identified as more important, everything sounds exactly the same.
There’s a TV commercial included below for the Android operating system. It makes a great point about variety by showing what happens when every key on a piano has the same sound. I’ll let you judge for yourself, but most people find that overwhelming “sameness” not only boring but confusing. I’ve designed quite a few catalogs in my day, and there’s nothing quite like a page full of products that are all the same size. When you look at it your brain says “wait a minute – what am I supposed to look at first?” A song using all the same notes and volume has a similar problem – nothing gets your attention.
Now think about a website in which everything is treated as a priority. Ironically, if you try to make everything stand out, nothing will ever stand out. When you yell at users with every graphic and header and link, then everything blends together. Instead, think about the most important two or three things you want people to take away from your site. Focus on making them stand out. If users are impressed with what they see, they’ll click around to learn more about you and your products or services.
Want proof? Visit apple.com or even an aggressive retailer like amazon.com and note the “hero” images – large, appealing graphics of a few products that catch our eye and draw us in. Both companies would like to sell us every single product they offer, but they’ve learned that trying to do so all at once is overwhelming.
You can’t force visitors to consider everything on your website important, but you can capture their interest by focusing on what is most critical. That’s how you create a website that encourages engagement and rewards users for making connections.