Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The 'F pattern' for online content

Jakon Nielsen has written an article on his recent eye-tracking research involving tracking users eye patterns.

The 'heat map' patterns that occurred while eye-tracking users, revealed that users followed a basic 'F-shaped pattern' when 'reading' a site.

The research can equally be applied to an intranet or external web site.

Jakob says the research confirms some basic conventions of online content :

  • Users won't read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors. Yes, some people will read more, but most won't.

  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. There's some hope that users will actually read this material, though they'll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second.

  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior. They'll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.

Basically this reinforces the idea of short, scannable, well broken up content following the 'information triangle' or 'reverse pyramid' content model.

Excellent research and conclusions which are relatively simple to implement on your site
with some solid content guidelines and training.

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