How Do Web-Users Read Web Content?

“How Users Read On The Web…. They Don’t!”  – Jakob Nielsen (Oct. 1997).

There was a study nearly 15 years ago by the Nielsen Norman Group (NY, USA) to look into the efficacy of web content on the user. The method was called Eyetracking and it basically monitored where the eye looked to on a web page and what information was being absorbed.  From data collated from Gaze Plots (dots to indicate points where a person’s eyes focus) and Heatmapping (color-coded visualizations of where many people look) the conclusions arrived at suggested that web content formatting would need to evolve in order to keep the attention of the reader. Mimicking printed newspaper and magazine stylings were beginning to fail. The study showed that people wanted their information to be quick and easy to read, visualise and digest. Read More...

The amongst methods employed were a prevalent use of bullet points, bold type to highlight important words or sentences, the use of italics, shorter sentences and paragraphs.  With this the actual look of the whole site became more design-centric. More thought was going into the placement and font choice and size.  The need to use space sensibly to maximise the text’s message was also key. Read More…

Around the same time, another primer to this well needed evolutionary shift in web page design was, Oliver Reichenstein (Tokyo-based designer from Information Architects Inc.) article that claimed: “Web design is 95% typography.”  

We urge all designers to read his article as obvious as and as long ago as it was published!

Now the background is in place, we have a question. have you noticed how pictures are beginning to take prevalence over the written word on an increasing number of high-profile company websites.  The visuals are also so large on-screen that in many cases the web-user must scroll down to get to any significant content.

In this age of attention deficit and ever increasing demands on our time is this is a good thing?

Do you agree that reading and content management / design should take a more distant seat?

To employ that well-worn quote ‘A picture can be worth a thousand words’ but will it shift a thousand units?


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