People No Longer Scan Websites In An F-Shape

How do you typically read printed material? Many of you would say that you read in rows going from left to right. Then there are those who read in Middle Eastern languages who would say they read in rows from right to left. And let’s not forget some of the languages of the orient, where words/characters are meant to be read vertically.

Now here’s another question. Do you naturally read web pages the same way you read printed material? Chances are you don’t. People tend to read 28% of content that’s on a site during an average visit. In 2006, upon analysis of results from eye-tracking software, experts concluded that users typically read websites in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical movement. This conclusion dramatially impacted website design in general, as businesses across all industries quickly adapted to make their websites more appealing to those scanning in an F-pattern.

In less than 10 years, that has quickly changed. People are no longer scanning websites in an F-pattern. That is mainly because of mobile page design, and the structure of various social networks. Users quickly changed the way they viewed content across the board in general. According to a study by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence on mobile web users:

  • 22% of readers followed a fullscreen pattern – they read a web page almost completely before scrolling to access new content,
  • 22% of readers followed a linewise pattern – scrolling almost instantly to keep new information flowing and tending to focus on a single or few lines on the screen, and
  • 56% of readers followed a blockwise pattern – changing parts of the screen with every scroll.

Interestingly enough, they also came up with a breakdown of the types of readers. 58% were “scanners” who simply scanned content. 38% were “navigators” who only read the headlines. Only 5% were actual readers who fully read all the content.

So what does this mean for online retailers? In simple terms, make your website easy to scan, and mobile-friendly. If you’re looking to have visitors to your site actually scroll through, they will need a bit of encouragement. This can be achieved by making use of compelling web content, and visuals. This will help give them a reason to keep scrolling, to see what lies ahead.