In today’s fast-paced world, skimming and scanning is how most internet users view web content. Skimming involves a rapid once-over to get a general idea of what’s there; scanning is looking for specific things (eg dates, names, links) within the text. Both of these methods help save time while navigating.
Because of the endless source of information found online, users make split-second decisions about whether certain pages are worth their time. The quickest method of viewing a webpage is a sweeping motion over the page—twice horizontally and once vertically—in an F-shaped pattern. These images and studies can offer valuable insight on effective web design. The photos of eye-tracking studies below show how users are consuming online media.
- 80 percent of time is spent on information above the fold (the visible portion before the user scrolls down).
- The left side of the page gets 69 percent of users’ attention.
How to Implement
- Always put important content first.
- Make content concise.
- Align text to the left side of the page where the most time is spent.
- Make webpages easy to scan by chunking text and using easy-to-read layouts. Scanners barely read 20 percent of text.
- Add bullet points and bold typeface to draw attention to important information.
When designing website layout, consider the words of Jakob Nielsen, human-computer interaction PhD, “How users read the web: They don’t.”
They do use the web though. Design your websites around that distinction.