Website Reading Patterns: Using Them to Your Benefit

website reading patterns

Website Reading Patterns: Using Them to Your Benefit

When you’re building a user-website, you have plenty of important things to consider. Think of quality content, attractive layout, and readable fonts, to name just a few. But one of the most important qualities of website design is often overlooked, causing readers to miss relevant information. The most optimal web designs take into consideration how the human eye reads a website. While there are subtle variations, the majority of people’s eyes follow an identical pattern when reading a website. When people design their websites with these patterns in mind, they make some similar choices. And these factors increase user curiosity and engagement.

Using the Patterns

Know what information is high-priority. Before you begin setting up your website, know what information is the most vital to you. And determine what you want site visitors to know right off the bat. Also, know what information is lower in priority. Prioritize what information you need your users to see first. And then you can place it where it falls directly within the user’s line of sight.

Prioritize the most important content by putting it first

Users direct most of their attention toward the top of the screen as they evaluate if they will continue reading. By placing high priority information in the first two paragraphs, your user can obtain the information they want more quickly. And they are more likely to continue reading for additional context.

Design your website with skimming in mind

Site reading is fast-paced. And people expect to find information on the internet quickly and efficiently. Most people are not willing to visit your site and do extra work to make sense of random information. Instead, they will visit a site with a more optimal organization. Acknowledge that your readers are going to be skimming and not sitting down for an in-depth reading. Thus, you can relay them your information more quickly and understand where to place it.

Take advantage of the sidebar

Once the user decides to interact more in-depth with your site, they will make use of the drop-down bar. Place this in the ideal location with consideration to eyesight patterns. As a result, you can increase the likelihood that site visitors are going to interact with your website at a deeper level. In your sidebar menu, create options based on what your users will want to know following the first two paragraphs of information.

Make subtle variations to layouts to keep interest and avoid monotony

While these patterns are important to consider before designing your website, they are meant to be played with. Without creative touches, the sites risk appearing static and dull, which will drive site visitors away. Making slight variations from the status quo will keep your site standing out, while also reaping the benefits of knowing where readers’ eyes are wanting to look. With this information in mind, let’s discuss two of the most commonly-used eyesight patterns: the F pattern and the Z pattern.

The F Pattern

The F Pattern is a pattern the eye follow that resembles the shape of the letter “F.” It is ideal for text-heavy content like blog sites. Eye-tracking studies reveal that the reader often begins in the top left corner. The upper left corner is the perfect space for your site’s or brand’s logo.

How it works

Then, the reader scans the top of a page in two horizontal lines, like those of an “F,” to scan for vital information. During this stage, the reader is deciding whether the information on the site matches what they are looking for, and whether or not they will continue reading. Next, the reader’s gaze will move straight down the left side in a vertical line as they read on.

Maximize success

To maximize your success with this layout, include an attention-grabbing opening sentence, and insert your most important information in the first two paragraphs of your content. You can elaborate on these points in the following paragraphs for readers to reference.

What to watch for

The F Pattern, unfortunately, does have one major setback. Without subtle variations, this layout can quickly begin to seem boring and monotonous. Of course, your text-heavy pattern doesn’t have to be in the shape of a perfect “F.” This design is just a guideline, intended to remind you to include that hook in the beginning. And keep your important information near the top of the page.

The Z Pattern

For websites that are not text-centered, a typical viewing pattern is the Z pattern. The reader begins at the top left corner; again, this is an ideal location for your brand’s logo. The eye then scans in a horizontal line to the right, likely to view the tabs at the top of your website to learn what their options are.

How it works

Next, the eye descends diagonally, presumably to view an image or video. Reaching the lower left corner, the eye follows the content to the right end, completing the “Z” shape.

Maximum effect

For maximum effect, as the viewer scans the bottom line, you can create a series of brief paragraphs with information, like a linked chain, leading to a related call to action. This is where a “learn more,” “contact us,” or “sign up now!” button comes into play. If need be, you can also utilize the Z shape to zig and zag indefinitely to include all necessary content.

Additional Strategies

Use significantly larger paragraphs for important information, using bold or large font sizes. When readers come across large or bold print, they are highly likely to read all or most of that content. It also helps to use a healthy number of links and to keep text’s line lengths short and in a relatively uniform column. This is what the reader expects to see, and it makes for smoother reading on the eyes. And consider other effective strategies.

Utilize search engine optimization (SEO)

In a Google search, most of us do not look much farther than the first two or three results, and they usually find all the information they need here. By using relevant keywords in your area of expertise, you can ensure that your site is one of the first two or three that users are viewing. However, as finding a place in these first few results becomes more difficult due to increasing competition, you may want to accurately master the strategy of using long tail keywords.

Keep the most relevant information in plain sight

Most users will typically scroll on a web page as they are skimming, but it is hard to say how long or far they will do so. Furthermore, viewers usually pay closer attention to information before the scroll line than they do after it, so this ensures that the people who need to see the most vital information will.

Users are drawn to the left side of the web page

Because English is a language that reads from left to right, we, in turn, use the left side of the page to orient ourselves. To ensure that the reader picks up on important information that you want them to know, but visual cues on the left side of the page. The left side is also a great spot for drop-down menus for this very reason.

Use large, high-quality images

To keep your readers engaged, use photos that are clear and crisp. Pictures of people directly facing the camera and displaying positive body language create a welcoming atmosphere for your web page. Low-quality images or photos that do not have a clear message can cause your viewers to strain the eyes, which comes across as uninviting and cause them to do unnecessary work. Too many low-quality images on your site may turn off potential customers and drive away user traffic.

When using pictures with smartphones, pick Apple products

In an interesting study, researchers noticed that in advertisements, when compared to devices like Android or Samsung, photos showing people who were instead Apple devices received more attention from viewers, even if the advertisement was not related to the technology itself.

Use attention-grabbing headlines

If you have a great, attention-grabbing hook or an urgent call to action, put it in a headline. This makes your message clear and peaks user curiosity. The headline garners very short attention from the viewer, and that is the point. Then effective, headlines cause readers to continue reading and spending time on your website. If your site has a lot of content on the left, this is also a strategy that will help the page remain aesthetically appealing.

First impressions are nearly instantaneous

In just tenths of a second, the user has already formed a subconscious opinion about your site. With this in mind, it is ideal for your site layout to be crisp, clear and direct, displaying its information in a straightforward, attractive way.

By keeping these eyesight patterns in mind, you can ensure that you are communicating clearly to your viewers, keeping them engaged, attentive and wanting to come back for more.

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