POST SUMMARY: Time is the new consumer currency yet a lot of brands are being taken for a ride by those who suggest that content marketing is going to lead to conversion. Consumers may utilize your content but unless you ensure all your brand touch points provide a great experience you’re wasting money.
Understanding how people read on the web and search for information can directly influence how we design our webpages and websites. One of the most influential researchers into web reading behavior has been Jakob Nielsen, who sums up his findings like this:
How Users Read on the Web
The truth is, people are going to skim and scan all the lovely content you’ve written, looking for something (a keyword, a header perhaps?) that catches their attention or matches the reason they’re visiting your website in the first place.
According to KISS Metrics “the one thing that all viewers have in common: they decide whether to even glimpse at your landing page in the first place, or not, based on its relevance. Time is of the essence, and people aren’t going to take time out of their day to read or even scan content that doesn’t have any significance for them. That’s why you need to really get to know your target audience and write content that will specifically appeal to them.”
Users Look Most Above the Fold
- Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the page fold (meaning, the part of the webpage that’s visible when users first land there). Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20% of their attention below the fold.
- Users spend 69% of their time looking at the left half of the webpage and 30% viewing the right half.
Implications for Content Writers
- Put the most important content first, in the opening sentences and paragraphs. Don’t start with that nice, smooth blah-blah intro.
- Get to the point. Immediately.
- Users are much more likely to scroll past the fold if the first content they see captures their attention or matches their need.
- Don’t center text (since readers strongly prefer the left side of the page and won’t even see text that’s centered).
- Keep headers (and links) flush to the left margin, so that visitors can readily see them, especially during their downward swipe of the page (the stem of the “F” pattern).
Users Scan and Skim Web Content
- Web users at most have the time to read little more than 20% of the words on a webpage during an average visit. (7)
- “Scanning text is an extremely common behavior for higher-literacy users.” (8)
- Lower-literacy users “plow text” rather than scan it. (9)
- Make webpage text easy for users to scan.
- Use bolded headings and subheadings that make sense and include keywords of the content.
- Use bulleted lists when you can to break up content. Bullets are also easy to scan.
- Use callouts to emphasize key brand messages.
- Images should reflect real-life people and the benefit or real-use of your product.