Study Reveals That Users Follow An “F’ Shaped Pattern While Reading Web Content

Studies which relate to the eye tracking and visualization habits and behavior of the web surfers and users show that the reader goes through the online web content in an “F” shaped pattern. The finding has tremendous implications towards designing of the different kinds of web pages in a more user-friendly way.

You may take hours and do tremendous efforts towards creating the best web content for your website, blog or any other online presentation, but the reader or user scans through it in a matter of seconds. A study reveals that the web surfers go through the online content in an “F” shaped manner, which means that with each successive or lower line, the reader actually reads the lesser number of words.

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The Real Findings

A study that focussed on user web page reading (the behavior of a number of the reader was studied, who actually read thousands of web pages), shows that the readers scan the web pages in minute stages. These include:

1st Stage

When the user opens a web page, he or she initially reads all of the lines and their content. These lines make up the upper or introductory part of the presentation/content or its excerpt. Within the “F” shaped reading the pattern, theses lines are like the first horizontal bar of the word F.

2nd Stage

Subsequently, the readers skip a few lines to reach the upper middle or middle part of the web page. Here they do not read the full lines, but only their smaller first halves. The reading behavior resembles the second, shorter bar of the word F.

3rd Stage

At the last, users only scan the left portion of the web page. This scan is very systematic. This last reading behavior resembles the stem of the word F.

Deviations on the basis of user behavior

While at most of the times web users follow the “F” shaped reading patterns, there are also other kinds of reading behaviors that have been noticed, and which vary from the above-stated reading pattern in subtle and sometimes even profound ways.

The “E” shaped reading pattern is where the reader goes across the web page in a more constant and uniform manner. He or she reads all the lines fully so that the reading pattern resembles the letter E.

There is also the “L” shaped reading the pattern, where the reader only reads the initial lines in a very conservative way and tries to get the essence of the content by reading the end lines fully. These readers are looking for a summary of the article, which they assume will be there at the end.

Deviations on the basis of content of the web page

The reading pattern and behavior also varies in accordance with the kind of web page the reader is going through. For instance, when a user goes to a product page of an e-commerce website, the second horizontal bar is shorter. This is so because the image of the product shares the space with the content.

The instances of these deviations are quite small, and most of the time, the “F” shaped reading pattern prevails.

The implications of the reading behavior findings

The study helps us to understand in what way the content pages should be designed so that the content can get the best user attention, and invite the user to follow the desired course of action. Some of the implications of the revelations of the study are:

  • Do not expect the user to read the whole content word by word.
  • The first or the first 2 paragraphs of your online web content should provide the users with all the useful information.
  • Make the headlines, Para heads, subheads and the bullet points full of information, or else the user will skip through them

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