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Distractions

User interfaces, and web pages in particular, are full of irritating distractions. These can turn even simple tasks, such a reading a body of text, into a chore.

Hyperlinks within an article may seem like helpful extras, but each link says, “Why not stop what you’re doing and look at this instead?” They break into the user’s consciousness and undermine her concentration. Researcher Erping Zhu has found that increasing the number of hyperlinks within a document lowers readers’ comprehension—even if the reader doesn’t follow the link.

The right-hand column of a web page often is often set aside for even more distracting links. They’re usually brightly colored and animated to attract the user’s attention away from the main focus of the page.

Users may well click on the links, but if their journey ends in confusion, listlessness, or irritation, the distraction has been counterproductive.

Things have got so bad that Apple’s Safari web browser now lets you remove these distractions so you can concentrate on reading.

The best place for these extras is at the end of a page where the user has finished reading. If users aren’t reading that far, then it’s a sign that the article itself needs work.

If you’re designing simple experiences, your job is to remove distractions and let the user focus.

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