The Mechanics of Web Content

Research shows that reading on screen is tiring on the eyes. In addition, reading online is 25% slower than reading print. In other words, users don’t “read” web pages, they scan.

“Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe. F for fast. That’s how users read your content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that’s very different from what you learned in school.” (Nielsen, par. 1-2)

How to Make Your Web Pages More “Scannable:”

  • Highlight keywords
  • Use meaningful sub-heads
  • Use bulleted lists
  • Keep paragraphs to one idea
  • Write in an inverted pyramid style
  • Keep your word count down, use about half the word count that you would use for print

Don’t Lose Your Audience
Users will most likely visit multiple web sites in one sitting. Don’t lose your user’s interest by burying information in content-heavy pages. Try to provide useful information in a quick and visual way rather than through long text explanations. If you don’t, the user will more than likely leave your site to view a competitor.

Be Concise
Web writing should be concise. Don’t worry about transitions. Web users don’t look for a smooth, essay-like structure.

If You Have Further Information
If the topic has a lot of content, offer the most useful information on the landing page, and link to additional content for users who want more information. This will help retain users who just want a taste of information, but still satisfy users who are looking for in-depth information.

Is My Web Site Content Heavy?
One of the easiest ways to determine if a particular page is too content heavy is to look at the bounce rate and/or conversions. A page that has multiple paragraphs of text with no visual cues (bullet lists, sub-heads, highlighted keywords, etc.) and a high bounce rate and/or low conversions may indicate it is too content heavy. Conduct a simple A/B test with your original version and a new version with the content reduced, and see if you get better results.

Need help?
Contact Lever Interactive for web site optimization services. We can help identify problem pages, make recommendations and conduct testing.

Nielsen, Jakob. Jakob Nielsen on Usability and Web Design. F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content. Nielson Norman Group. 17 April 2006

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