Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reading on the Web

Most of us can write for the Web, but have you ever stopped to think how we read on the Web? I was in a Web writing workshop yesterday and heard this little nugget that piqued my interest.

In general, Web readers read copy in an F- or E-shaped pattern. From useit.com:





The red portions are the most-read sections, followed by yellow and blue sections. The gray areas? Forget about it! This is the sidebar/banner ad space. (When was the last time you clicked on a banner ad?) We read in a horizontal pattern, and then move vertically scanning a Web page for relevant content.

Web site copy is written for people who skim. Now, I think blog visitors are used to reading longer pieces so there are always exceptions. People read our posts to make a connection or get information. Yet, from my own experience, I don’t read too far below the fold when reading copy on a screen. I scan. As for longer pieces, I print and read them when I have more time.

So, here are some basic tips to make your content more reader friendly:

  • Put keywords and important themes in the first two paragraphs
  • Use short sentences
  • Write in active voice
  • Use bullets and subheads
  • Use keywords in your headers
  • Use, but don’t overuse, bold and italics
  • Add links to enhance your content
  • Be authentic
  • Minimize typos

These tips won’t work for all types of Web writing. I don’t think that all blog posts have to be short—not in the least. I tend to write my posts with breaks between thoughts (ex., see Confession Tuesday post) to give the eyes a rest. If I really want to expand on a topic, I do, using some of the items in the list above. Today’s readers want to visit your page, connect or get info, and move on.

5 comments:

Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

That's so helpful - and enlightening Janz. Thanks.

Kimberlee said...

Interesting stuff. :D

Kells said...

interesting info! Thanks!

January said...

Thanks ladies. I was blown away by seeing the F-pattern visual.

Valerie Loveland said...

I had to reduce my internet time because I didn't like the way I was reading online.

I hate reading back-lit pages, so I also print out the pages and read them later.

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