It is a well-established fact that people read online in a different way to reading a physical book.
People Don’t READ They SCAN
The saying goes ‘People rarely read online – they’re far more likely to scan than read word for word’, and this appears not to have changed since the first in-depth research carried out in 1997.
What has changed is the way that websites are being built, Responsive layouts causing the content to be displayed in a manner that matches the ‘viewing window’. This means that there is no longer the need for designers to implement the old ‘fluid text’ systems they used to have to employ.
Another change is that because some designers are using a zigzag layout (where text and images alternate in each row on the page) a new scanning pattern has developed.
Inline Quotes or Ads Can Break the Reading ‘Spell’
Other interesting points in the article show that people do read in a lawn mower pattern, just as when reading a book, but that when the text is ‘interrupted’ by an inline quote or an advert, it is likely to break the ‘spell’, with the viewer reverting to scanning, their eyes darting all over the page. This is important as it could mean that a vital message – in a lower part of that text block – is missed entirely.
Other items that users are known to be distracted by include Tables and User Generated content like reviews.
The amount of information in the article is quite stunning, but it is important, both for web designers and copy writers, the top tips being:-
- Use Clear Noticeable headings and sub headings
- Place the important information at the top of the page
- Use bulleted lists and BOLD text to attract the eye
- Ensure you use plain language
Google has different – although some would say less important needs
Things are a little different when trying to catch the eye of Google of course, here the number of words used is a major factor in getting a good ranking. This means that in many instances the content of a page is perhaps longer than is needed for the human reader. What is required is balance, as by taking into account the way a human will view a page, the designer and copywriter can create a layout that meets the needs of both ‘audiences’. It just takes some thought and careful application.
Please see:- https://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-people-read-online/ for the full article.