On average a visitor to your website will only read 20% of the content on any one of your pages! It’s a sobering thought and there is one very simple reason for this slightly depressing fact… scanning.
People don’t read a web page in the same way as they do a book, a magazine or a newspaper. When people are browsing a website they are looking for quick answers.
Eye-tracking studies have found that the majority of people read online content in an ‘F’ pattern, as shown in the heat map image opposite. The red parts are where people spent the most time looking and the blue parts the least time. Horizontal movement across the first paragraph forms the top of the F. Second horizontal movement slightly further down that covers a shorter area than the first, and vertical scanning of the left side.
Why do people scan?
It could be argued that it is simply more difficult to read lots of text on a computer screen.
But there is another simple reason for people scanning in this way: people are looking for a specific piece of information and they don’t want to read the whole article to find it. They are ultimately looking for an answer to a question.
They will click on a link and scan the content for that answer. If they don’t find it quickly and easily they’ll leave, go back to the search engine and try another link.
How to solve the scanning challenge
Here are some other things you can do to make a website scanner’s life easier, which should always be the aim when writing online content:
- Put important information near the beginning of sentences and paragraphs.
- Create bullet point lists
- Use plenty of descriptive subheadings.
- Write in short paragraphs.
- Give each point or idea its own paragraph.
- Create plenty of white space.
- Highlight key points in bold.
Using concise and clear copy by avoiding technical jargon non-jargon will easily pinpoint what they’re looking for. navigate. Remember you are dealing with fickle readers who will make a decision about the usefulness of your content within seconds, get the main point of the article into the first couple of paragraphs.
The objective is to deliver information as quickly and clearly as possible.