They don’t; so make webpages scannable
Here’s the title of one of usability expert Jakob Nielsen’s earliest articles on writing for the web:
How Users Read on the Web
The first paragraph:
“People read paper,” says TJ Larkin, principal of Larkin Communications Consulting. “They use the web.”
Screen reading is different from print materials. In fact, people read word-by-word online just 16% of the time, according to eye-tracking studies by Dejan Marketing.
So what are they doing the other 84% of the time?
Where are they looking?
Readers aren’t reading your paragraphs. They’re looking at your microcontent, or online display copy, according to a study by Conversion XL:
- 97% read headlines. They averaged 2.9 seconds, which gave them time to read 7 words, according to the researchers.
- 98% read decks, or the one-sentence summary under the headline. They spent 2.8 seconds, or read about 7 words.
- More than 90% viewed captions.
Web visitors also look at the:
- Bulleted lists
- Bold-faced text
Don’t bury your messages in the paragraphs. Reach nonreaders with the display copy.