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Web Users Don’t Read

A report by Akamai[1] and Jupiter Research found that users give a page roughly four seconds to deliver whatever it is they’re there for, be it information or products, before they’re gone – most likely to the next link down in their search results. Seasoned web designers have learned to make sure every second counts with well-placed content and concise information.

1. Don’t Make Me Think

In an eye-tracking study of 232 users viewing thousands of websites, researchers found most users scan the page in an F-shape.
In an eye-tracking study of 232 users viewing thousands of websites, researchers found most users scan the page in an F-shape.

In a landmark study by Jakob Nielsen[2] on web usability, he found that 79% of web users ‘scan’ a page in an F-shape rather than read the content. Any content not in that key area is mostly ignored. Because of this knowledge, web designers know to put branding and key points of interest within that narrow range. It helps to know your audience, of course. For instance, traditional Japanese reads from top to bottom and right to left… calls to action there typically go on the bottom!

2. Don’t Waste My Time

Keep your requests for information short and sweet. Don’t ask for too much personal information without providing adequate payoff. Imagine your visitor’s experience as a trip through a maze. At the center of the maze is your lead conversion. Help them get there with as few turns and obstacles as possible.

3. Make It Look Sexy

In the end, don’t forget to make the maze enticing enough to enter in the first place! Although users may forgive bad web design, there’s no denying the brand loyalty generated by a beautiful site. Good design elegantly drives the user’s eye, engages the senses, conveys branding, and above all keeps them coming back for more.

[1] http://www.akamai.com/html/about/press/releases/2006/press_110606.html
[2] http://www.useit.com/jakob/