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Writing for the web: Where do your readers look first?

Aug16

Written by:
2010/08/16 08:29 AM RssIcon

I suppose the most basic purpose of our blogs is to get people to read them. If not that, then we are just wasting our time. The question then is, how do I get people to read my blog.

The answer, in an F shaped pattern.

With all the new technology we have at our disposal you would think that it would make more free time. But in fact it has created a generation of people with very little time and so much to do.

Because of this very few people read an entire blog completely unless it is of prime interest to them. What do you do then?

F for Fast.

That's how people read your site, very fast. Studies have shown that most people scan a site first. Looking for interesting tid-bits to catch their attention. In just a few seconds a readers eyes will scan your website. It is during this time that you want to catch their attention

Eyetracking visualizations have shown that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.

f_reading_pattern_eyetracking

  • First your website readers will read in  horizontal movement. Most often across the upper part of the content area. This is similar to the first horizontal element of the “F”.
  • Users then move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement. This would then represent the next element of the F's lower bar.
  • Lastly Your readers will scan the content's left side in a vertical movement. This typically represents the last element, the F's stem.

Make your content scanable.

These eyetracking studies reveal some fascinating trends. Our job is to use those results and make our blogs better for readers. Make it easier to attract their attention and read our blogs.

In that light it is imperative that you make your blog scanable.

  • Reader will scan the main sections of a page to determine what it’s about and whether they want to stay longer.  This normally means your heading, headlines and introductory paragraphs, and any pictures.
  • Reader will make decisions about the page in as little as three seconds or less.  Make sure you use that time effectively
  • If they do decide to stay a while, they will probably pay most attention to the content in the top part of the screen. Use that to entice them deeper. Put your most compelling, important, attracting content there.

Implications

This F- shaped scanning technique has some implications on how you should understand and construct your blog.

  • Users won't read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner.  Yes, some people will read more, but most won't.
  • State the most important information of your content in the first two paragraphs. This is difficult I know, and goes against most writing skills.
  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content.

Conclusion

Following these easy steps will most likely over time gain you some important and loyal readers. After all is that not what our blogs are all about?

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