“Our focus of attention is highly influenced by visual cues”

A visual cue is a signal which your brain extracts from what you see. It indicates the state of some property around you that you are interested in perceiving.

Now, only 1% of what you see actually enters through your eyes (the rest is -surprisingly correct – made up by your brain). You can only see really well with your ‘fovea’: an area in the exact center of your retina that is the size of your thumbnail on an arm-length distance).

It is therefore important to direct your customers’ fovea-attention, for example, by using visual cues in the periphery of their vision. These cues can be obvious (e.g. an arrow), but also very subtle (e.g. text in the form of an arrow).

Especially on websites, visual cues have proven extremely effective.

Two clarifying stories

The reason why the moon appears huge on the horizon is simply because our bubble of perception does not stretch out 380,000 kilometers. It runs out of space. So what we do is we compare the buildings within our perceptual bubble, and we make a decision. We make a decision it’s that big, even though it’s not that big.

Or imagine you’re at an airport trying to make it to your gate. Arrows make it easy for you -and others- where to look and where to go. Now image that all these arrows disappear… In an airport visual cues are elementary. They turn places into passages, direct crowds, and urge you to ‘move on’.

Just like they can do in your online dialogue…

Online Persuasion tips:


  • Use a visual cue to emphasize your most important content / USP / CTA.
  • If you have multiple chunks of content, use visual cues make your customer consume these chunks in the most persuasive order.
  • When you have more content than is visible (below the fold, or on next pages), use cues to direct attention to this hidden content.



Online Dialogue and tested the effect of visual cues for Dutch hotel chain ‘Van Der Valk’. Adding the cues (pointing down), realized:

  • 10 times more visitors that scroll all the way to the bottom of (rather long) hotel homepages
  • 57% more conversions via the hotel homepages
Van der Valk - visual cueing

Van der Valk – visual cueing

Further reading on visual cueing: