So, you’ve done your research. You know what content is important to your users. You put that information on your website and pat yourself on the back for providing useful, useable content.
But wait. Don’t congratulate yourself just yet. Because simply putting content on a page doesn't guarantee users will find it. It could be hidden in a "content blind spot."
What’s a content blind spot?
Content blind spots occur when the information is there, but users can’t see it. In general, users scan and skip content, looking for clues before committing to read. But if the clues are missing, users won’t find the content.
Problems that prevent users from finding content include:
- Information is not where users expect to find it, based on past experiences on that website or the web in general
- Links do not look like links (e.g., link text not underlined or not blue)
- Copy is “hidden” inside a graphic element or photograph
- Page titles and links do not use relevant keywords or common user terms
Just like those little Smart Cars that hide in your Prius’s blind spot on the freeway, content stays unseen until someone changes their position. While driving, that means you or the Smart Car needs to speed up, slow down, or change lanes. Likewise, content stays hidden in a blind spot until either the user changes their approach to accessing the information, or you change the way it’s displayed.
What it’s like to experience the content blind spot
While doing our taxes, my husband asked me how much interest I paid on my student loan in 2009. I went to WellsFargo.com to find out.
I get all my bank-related documents electronically, so I knew right where to find that sort of information—or so I thought. I logged in to my student loan and went to the Statements & Documents tab. Once there, I saw a link called “Available Tax Documents.” Bingo.
Wrong. I went from feeling triumphant to confused within seconds—or however long it took a “Tax document not available online” error message to load.
After a few more failed attempts, I called customer service. A friendly representative walked me through the exact same process I had just gone through. I got the same error message. She was confused. I was confused. She transferred me to another department. The call was disconnected mid-Muzak stream. I was fuming.
I gave up. But my husband was convinced the information had to be online. I handed him my laptop, and wished him luck.
He found the information in two seconds.
How the content snuck into my blind spot
I totally missed seeing my 2009 tax info because I had expected to find it in the Statements & Documents tab. Then, the tab rewarded my incorrect assumption by providing an “Available Tax Documents” link.
I didn’t even look for the information on the Account Activity page. Why? Because I was used to looking at a similar page for my checking account, and there is no “interest paid” information there. It’s just a summary of my balance. So why would I look on that page for interest information on my student loan account?
How to avoid the content blind spot
My experience is just one example of how content can “hide” from your user. To avoid this type of content blind spot:
- Be consistent in where you put similar pieces of content throughout the site
- Use relevant keywords and user terminology—especially when labeling links and navigation
- Don’t mislead users with links that don’t deliver what they promise
If you put content in your users’ blind spot, they’ll leave your website feeling angry, confused, and frustrated. And without the information they needed. Not everyone has a husband with eagle eyes, you know?