The Availability Heuristic, how to take advantage of it and why good quality images help

According to research our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text

 Goldfish (who actually have a longer attention span than the average web-user) flicking through TV Channels created by   Lewes Logo Designs

Goldfish (who actually have a longer attention span than the average web-user) flicking through TV Channels created by Lewes Logo Designs

Given the attention span of the average web-user this is an important thing to bear in mind when building your home page, or any of your pages

Humans are better and faster at processing images than words, partly because, as a species, we've been doing it longer but also because the ability to quickly process and understand what we see in front of us (landscape, people, obstacles) has given us a better chance of survival. 

 Chocolate and orange, gluten and dairy-free cake from Ground Lewes. Mmmmmmm

Chocolate and orange, gluten and dairy-free cake from Ground Lewes. Mmmmmmm

Our enhanced ability not only to process but also to remember images over words may be a result of the way an image memory is laid down.

A picture brings with it all kinds of associations, the past, smell, touch, taste, place, emotion and the many different versions of that image we have seen before.

The activation of different parts of the brain to process the different sensations and associations arising from an image is likely to lead to a more sophisticated encoding.

The more we think about something, the more solidly it lodges in our brain and the easier it is to access when it comes to rapid decision-making time

The Availability Heuristic

Whilst most of use consider ourselves to be independent thinkers, much of how we we go about making instant decisions is based on the Availability Heuristic. This means that the information we choose to help us make rapid choices is more to do with how easy it is to access that information than whether the information is actually helpful or relevant.

The attention we lend to an experience is proportional to its vivid or interesting character and it is an notorious fact that what interests us most vividly at the time is, other things equal, what we remember best
— William James, 19th Century US Philosopher and Psychologist

The term Availabiity Heuristic was first coined in 1973 by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman to describe how human beings make judgements about the prevelance of certain events based on how many similar events were brought to mind. 

Shark v Plane

When asked about common causes of death people are likely to draw on what they've most recently heard or read in the media and give that disproportionate predominance. For example, when questioned as to whether someone is more likely to die from a shark attack or from an aeroplane part falling from the sky, most people will cite the shark. In fact more people die from injuries sustained when aeroplane parts falls to earth than they do from shark wounds; deaths from aeroplane debris are rarely reported.

What this means for our purposes is that people will make snap decisions based on the most available piece of information, not necessarily the most accurate

So, what does this all mean to you?

Use images to lodge yourself at the forefront of people's minds, and use them frequently on whichever platform you use to talk about or demonstrate your business (make them good ones, you don't want to the first thing people to think about you is "meh").

By doing this you are building up speedily absorbed and easily retrievable chunks of information in your customers' minds so that when they're wavering between your product (or service) or someone else's, you will have the advantage. You will have established pre-eminence.

You will of course need high quality written content on your websites too. But if you want to take advantage of the Availability Heuristic, images could be your best friend

Take a Little Test

Watch the slideshow and when it's finished see how much of each image you can recall, and how many of the words.

High quality, original, arresting images of your business are very important, (here's why it's better not to use library shots). Your website will be judged by the quality of the weakest part, don't allow that to be your images

This doesn't mean you have to hire a photographer, if you're handy with a camera, do it yourself

Of course, it might just be more economic to get a professional to care of what is an essential part of a good marketing strategy. Bear in mind that high quality images will keep working for you for a long time after they are taken, and paid for.

If you want to hire this particular photographer/website maker (me) or talk about making a website full of beautiful, compelling images, do get in contact.

Next Month's Website Tip is about Attention and how to keep it

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