Most of you will read this sentence. If enticed, your eyes will trail here.
But if you’re like most people who read web content, it won’t be long until you begin scanning the article, trying to figure out if it meets your needs. This paragraph will get plenty of attention; statistically, the next few won’t fare so well.
If you produce or manage web-based material, you can expect that your readers exercise the same level of scrutiny. And if your content runs contrary to the way they read online — making their reading experience difficult — most visitors will leave for a better experience.
Professionals who want to cultivate a strong web presence benefit from understanding visitors’ reading tendencies, both when they’re in the middle of search and when they’re on a page. Here are eight interesting findings about how people read online.
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- Reading online takes more time than paper-based alternatives. Studies show that reading from a screen is about 25 percent slower than reading from paper.
- When looking at text-based webpages, the eye gaze commonly follow an F-shaped pattern.
- However, the eye gaze is likely to break the F-shaped pattern when browsing picture-based pages, like you may find on an e-commerce site. While left to right search patterns still happen, eye movements across the page are quite uniform when scanning pictures above the fold.
- Web users most frequently look at ads that contain only text or ads that present images and text separately. Sponsored links on search engine pages get many looks, too. Less popular are advertisements with text imposed on images. Animated ads get the least attention of all.
- A psychological effect called selective attention causes many web users to overlook banner advertisements completely.
- Where a person looks online, the cursor tends to follow. Most of the time, it is within 200 pixels of the eye gaze.
- Web users turn to search engines more than they did a decade ago. In 2000, 40 percent of people visited a homepage and, from there, sought out the information they needed. By 2008, only 25 percent of people used homepages as an avenue to get information. Everyone else used search engines.
- And they’re using search engines with excellent results, it seems. A survey in 2012 reported that 91 percent of search engine users say that, when they use search engines, they find what they are searching for always or most of the time.
Reading online is no longer a rarity – it’s the new normal. By understanding how people usually do it, you are better empowered to put together content that attracts visitors and gets them to stick around.