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You walk into a room where a researcher asks you to go to a keyboard. You are told to type some facts into a word document. The results of your typing are saved, the computer is switched off, and the researcher asks you to recall the facts you have typed. You get a good mark, but wouldyou have done differentlyif your typing wasn’t saved?
Apparently, the answer is yes. Knowing that there is a place on a computer where the answers are saved will make you do worse than someone who had all of their typing deleted, as discovered by this study (PDF Warning).
Participants in another experiment, also listed on the linked article, were asked to remember two different items: A piece of trivia, and where on a computer the trivia was saved. People had difficulty with remembering the facts, but not where each fact was located.
It turns out that computers, and the internet, could be changing the way that some people’s brains work.
If I were to ask “How many muscles are there in the human body?”, would you know the answer? Or would you think “If I search on Wikipedia for muscles, the answer will be there?”. A lot of people are now apparently in the second category.
Take my latest shopping want: A watch that connects to a phone. After my initial research, I personally couldn’t remember the names of any of the products I wanted, just a vague outline of what the item looked like. But I did know that if I searched for “smart watches guide” I could find a top five article that contains three of the watches I’m debating between.
Now, let’s say I was looking through some products on your own website and I found out that you stock a watch that is perfect for what I want: It has all of the features of your competitor’s but fits into my personal style better than all of the other products that I have viewed. I then get distracted, go and cook some dinner, watch some TV, and come back to my shopping over the weekend. I remember seeing the perfect item, but because life caught up with me, and because my memory span isn’t that good, I can’t remember your website name so I’m back to using Google. If your website isn’t search engine optimised, I may not find it again during my searches. I also may not remember enough about your website to even know what to type into the search box to relocate your website, especially if I was using complex search terms in my initial search.
If the pages of information I was clicking though to read more about your watch had catching, memorable headlines, I may remember “Oh yeah, the page talked about Windows Phone compatibility” and use that term in Google to try and relocate your page, just because this is something my personal interests are more attuned to than your company name.
Or if I initially came to your website through a Google search I may, if the content is memorable enough, remember the title text I clicked on to get to your page. After all, by moving my mouse pointer over to click on your link, your title text is the very last thing that I’m reading before leaving Google. It may just be the only thing I remember about that page of search engine results.
When I do manage to land on your page, if I can find the information I want, then I am going to locate that watch and bring out my bank card. If I can’t find it fast enough, I am likely to click off your page and buy your competitor’s product, as I personally want to find what I’m looking for instantly, and if I can’t get to it straight away I will go elsewhere.
Although not remembering all of the details of a website may be a unique aspect about me, the researchers in the linked article believe that more and more people are slowly becoming this way, not storing the destination of facts but remembering the journey they took to find these facts. As well as relying on Google to interpret their search results, they are remembering what search terms to use to get the best results from Google.
Without navigation optimisation, without the ability to work out what to search to find your website, it is possible that people may not be able to re-find your website. They may not remember the character string they need for your whole website URL, but if it is Search Engine Optimised, they may remember ways to get to it.
If you think your website isn’t doing enough to be memorable to both search engines and humans, why not take a look at the internet marketing services WDL can provide?