Please Don’t Ignore Me! Rethinking How We Design For Attention


By: Drew McManus

In an age where arts organizations are learning how to re-engage patrons with remote activity, it never hurts to reexamine what we take for granted. To that end, there’s a fantastic article by Victor Yocco at that provides exactly the sort of perspective our field can benefit from when engaging digital initiatives.

Out of the gate, Yocco does a good job at framing the discussion by reviewing two sub-types of attention that are most applicable to these efforts:

Transient Attention
This type of attention is brief, perhaps even thought of as a quick distraction, that attracts someone’s attention. Think of a flash of light that draws your attention and then quickly disappears.

Sustained Attention
This is what we think of when we talk about focus and the ability to concentrate; deep attention that allows you to intake and process information or perform a task requiring a longer duration to complete.

He makes it clear that neither type is better, rather, the goal is learning how to capitalize on both by changing the way you design and deliver messages. To that end, one of the primary keys is research.

The bit that’s really worth absorbing is under the Key Questions For Stakeholders And Users header. There’s a simple, two column chart that helps keep your research focused:

Answering the questions in Column A will provide the clarity you need to ensure your product is intentional and ethical. If you are unable to effectively answer these questions, your product needs more discovery and better justification.

Answering the questions in Column B will ensure you provide the correct solutions to gain and maintain user attention, as well as respect them as users.

Lastly, if you just want to swing by for a single actionable take-away, scroll down to the Clear Clutter/Remove Distractions sections. The header title alone is a good reminder for a field that is trained to cram as many donate CTAs as possible into every last millimetre of white space.

Read Designing For Attention at

Drew McManus
Drew McManus
In addition to my consulting business, I'm also the Principal of Venture Industries Online but don’t let that title fool you into thinking I'm just a tech geek. I bring 20+ years of global broad-based arts consulting experience to the table to help clients break the cycle of choosing one-size-fits-none solutions and instead, deliver options allowing them to get ahead of the tech curve instead of trying to catch up by going slower. With the vision of legacy support strategy and the delights of creative insights, my mission is to deliver a sophisticated next generation technology designed especially for the field of performing arts. The first step in that journey began in 2010 when The Venture Platform was released, a purpose-designed managed website development solution designed especially for arts organizations and artists. For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, lead a team of intrepid arts pros to hack the arts, lead an arts business incubator, and love a good coffee drink.
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