@danipuntov / November 02, 2018

How users read on the web

Absolutely the most important thing of a page is that it always has to be on top, as here more of less, because that is how users read on the web. I start the post in high. I affirm since the users are not readers themselves, that is, they do not read but use the web (users who also influence web design). I affirm that the conventional reading order is broken here in favor of a F-shaped scanning pattern. I recognize that, on average, a user only reads 20% of a page... If he has not left before. (By the way, do not run away, the best of the post is coming now).  

How users read on the web. INNN
Neuromarketing has a lot to say when analyzing how users read on the web. | INNN

Use before reading

Users who visit a website do not have time for much. That is the case almost always and I do not think anything changes it. To the inevitable impatience and utilitarianism of the digital world we must respond with results and quick answers. Knowing this premise will help us to consolidate efficient criteria in the elaboration of contents.

The user has a tool destined for action in the mouse . Your way of consuming a certain content will depend largely on the things that the page promotes in terms of interaction, being able to decide in tenths of a second a click that will make you follow our page or not. It is sort of an easy trigger (click) scan that users do on the web.


F-Shaped Pattern of reading on the Web

We have seen then that users who visit a website have a much more exciting type of reading than in paper format. The user of a website works like a human scanner. He passes his gaze through certain areas of a page, making, at best, a quick reading of the most prominent elements, a sweep of the images and a record in time interpretation of the main ideas that underlie the content.

"Remember the way a Terminator scanned. Well, something like that is how a user looks at a website."

Through eye tracking techniques, it has been possible to determine certain constants in this process of reading the users on the web, His eyes are more focused on some areas of the web than others. So he has come to the conclusion that there is a web reading pattern: the F-pattern. What does this consist of?

  • The upper area of the page takes the palm. The users focus their attention on what appears above.
  • In this phase, the reading still follows a horizontal logic, from left to right. To this upper area users grant the minimum time (very minimal) but more or less necessary to see what is going on from one side of the page to the other.
  • A quick glance down. The first vertical scan looks for prominent elements.
  • A relative “bend” of special attention. In a second level of the page, the user explores content again.
  • Another fleeting review. The user finishes “reading” the page in a flash.
F Pattern. How users read on the web
Different studies have shown that users follow a pattern in the form of F when they read a website. | Source: Nielsen Norman Group

This model has become a particular relevant area on a page, a golden triangle that focuses on the user's main attention. 

But what comes first, the chicken or the egg? What is the standardization of websites that have generated the uses and customs of its reading? Or are the users those who have influenced the design of the websites and the organization of their contents? Probably, the answer is halfway between both question. There seems to be, on the one hand, an ideal web born and evolved within the framework of the technological, cultural and functional conditions imposed by the digital world. And on the other hand, this ideal is fed incessantly by the needs expressed by the users.  


Users only read 20% of a website

Attention, even if a user visits our content with a good predisposition there are two factors that can scare you away just after landing: density and scroll. 

  • The visual density of text spots should allow the page to remain a friendly environment, with an attractive and easy to assimilate web design. In other words, the more words written less words read. 
  • Scroll down the attention. As I noted earlier, the F reading pattern pushes the attention to the top. Nielsen has revealed in his study that more than 80% of users only look at the visible elements without scrolling, and that only 19% pay attention (and succinctly) to what is below the scroll line of the page. 
How users read on the web. | INNN
The percentage of words that the users of a page read decreases as there are more words. | Source: Nielsen Norman Group

As a result, web editors are accustomed to dealing with statistics that are really meagre, These say that users who read webs barely read 20% of the texts, which seems to compromise at first the very meaning of our work. Fortunately, the matter is not so scary. 

Nowadays, fragmentation is one of the main features in how to consume contents. In an advertising agency like INNN we know that there are many opportunities and many pieces with which to communicate relevant things, and that to impact with a headline, a photo, an appointment or to encourage a click on other related content means much more than a simple look of a digital user. A crossing of looks rather. 


Dani Viana

Dani Viana

daniel.viana@innn.es  / 

Experienced editor in both the sector and outside the sector. Dani manages the daily development, updating, and dynamism of contents in some of the most important projects here at INNN. His nickname is Danipedia, since he always has an answer for every question and adds the perfect transversal ingredient of his cultural experience to storytelling processes and copywriting key aspects.

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