I’m hoping you saw my post here yesterday, and that you took the test I gave you, and passed it. I failed the first time through. If you haven’t done that already, then maybe you should click here to go back and do that before you read the rest of this.

The point of it is what’s called “inattention blindness.”  I got it from Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. in Psychology, who put it as number one in her fascinating list of 100 things you should know about people on her very interesting blog called What Makes Them Click. She says:

So what does this mean if you are designing a website or something on a computer screen? It means that you can’t assume that just because something is on the screen means that people see it. This is especially true when you refresh a screen and make one change on it. People may not realize they are even looking at a different screen. Remember, just because something happens in the visual field doesn’t mean that people are consciously aware of it.

I was in a large group when I went through that test from yesterday’s post, and I was fascinated by my own blindness. I was the classic case, so busy diligently counting passes that I missed a gorilla (I know, the one I linked to was a bear, but this one was a gorilla) walking right through the scene.

True story: In the early days of Palo Alto Software we had a website demo of Business Plan Pro that gave people an experience related to the interface of the software, but wasn’t a full implementation. It didn’t save the work. You couldn’t get into it without clicking through two different warnings: they said something like this is a demo only, and your work here won’t be saved, and you could not get to the demo without clicking a button to indicate that you understood your work wouldn’t be saved.

Years later, I’m still amazed at how many people clicked the right buttons but never read the words they said. And, much to our chagrin, they ended up very angry at having typed paragraphs that got lost. Of course we took the demo down, and quickly. But I still remember the lesson we learned.

Note: Interested in Business Plan Pro? Since this article was published, we’ve created LivePlan—our cloud-based business planning and business management tool. 

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.