Eye-tracking studies show that people read online documents in an F-shaped pattern, shown here:
They scan across the top of the page and then down the left side of the page until they find another significant word or phrase that catches their attention. At that point, they scan across the page a bit and then resume scanning down the page a bit. People rarely read everything on the page. They scan and decide in a matter of seconds what action to take next. They may never scroll down the page.
If you are writing documents that people will read online—whether email messages, attached files, or webpages—you need to use document design elements that will put your most important information in the path of the F-shape pattern.
As you consider this study, think about the design strategies that would help readers find the significant information in your messages, and share your ideas in the comments.
- F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content by Jakob Nielsen
- 10 Useful Findings About How People View Websites by Peep Laja
Photo Credit: Jakob Nielsen’s F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content
I can really relate to this. I find myself searching for new articles to read because the first few lines of a page may not stand out to me because the more important information appears after you scroll down a page. I’ll try to use the information in this text with my assignment.
This method really resonates with me. I do this a lot when I am writing research papers and I am looking through material that I have already read in the past. This makes it easier for me to dig up the information that I know is going to be helpful and it takes a lot less time. I think it’s really cool that I am not alone in using this.
I know this ideology is very prevalent with recruiters looking at your resume. We’re always told that recruiters want to skim from top to bottom, not from left to right, so you put the most important characteristics (jobs, education, awards, etc) in these certain positions so that they’re seen. I never thought to think that this applied everyday writings. I’m going to need to look back through my bio to see if I’ve hit that style.
This is such a cool way to look at how people absorb and take in information. I can really understand how this works because if I can’t find what I’m looking for on the first page of google I feel that the subject in question doesn’t exist. I bet that one way to help “squeeze in” more information would be to put a picture in the top right hand corner of the paper. This would help guide the reader to read the whole sentence instead of just half of it. It’s really interesting that the intrinsic way we read language determines how much of it we take in.
Personally, I think most people don’t like to read everything on the page, so knowing the reading pattern for most people will make it easier to me to put the most important details on that places.