Becoming a better listener will improve your site

Julian Treasure recently gave a TED talk on how we can all become better listeners. He mentions that 60% of our time communicating is spent listening, but we only retain 25% of what we hear. There are innumerable reasons why we can all benefit from being better listeners, but his advice is incredibly useful in creating high quality user experience to get the most out of your website.

Listening to Silence

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” — E. F. Schumacker

It is simplicity that you must strive for in a user friendly website, sure bells and whistles may be necessary, but use this method of simply observing the silence to open your eyes to how you may simplify your website.

USE IT: How do we apply this tactic? We do just what Julian Treasure recommends, listen to the silence, a couple minutes every day, then stare at a blank sheet of paper, or a blank tab on your web browser. Before you put anything down on paper, just look, listen, you may begin to see something form in front of you, or you may just find that all of things that were screaming to be at the top of the homepage just fade.

The Mixer

Treasure suggests picking out all the channels of sound that you hear, whether in a busy coffee shop or by a quiet stream, segmenting and recognizing the patterns of sound around you will help you be a better listener. Humans naturally recognize patterns and use this ability to make sense of the cluttered world around us.

USE IT: Look at all the content on your site, or that should be on your site, sit with it and begin to notice how it can easily be divided up. The hierarchy of a site is what will make or break you. I have seen even the simplest sites become terribly cluttered for lack of a visual hierarchy. Use colors, lines and font styles to divide up ideas.


This exercise consists of savoring the mundane everyday sounds, like the sound of a dryer, or a fan. The best way to put this to use when designing a fantastic user interface is to practice, with complete awareness, navigating the sites you use on a daily basis.

USE IT: Try using your email and really pay attention to why you click where you do. Where all the buttons go? What functions are there that you never use? Why don’t you ever use those functions? What functions do you use without even thinking? Test out some other sites you use on a daily basis, ask yourself the same questions.

Change your listening position

Evaluate from where you are listening. Are you active or passive? Reductive or expansive? Critical or empathetic? Switch to the other side and see how things change.

USE IT: This is a great way to see your website with fresh eyes. Does it feel different from a different position? Does the function change? How can you use this new awareness to improve the experience of your site?

Practice RASA


USE IT: Your website should simply and concisely achieve RASA, allowing your users to receive the information without having to dig, appreciate it, understand and summarize, and be motivated to take action, or ask.

Listening is the key to understanding your customer. It will allow you to build a brand that truly speaks, a brand that matters and makes a difference. But most importantly a brand that translates into a great user experience