How People Read Online: New and Old Findings thumbnail
How People Read Online: New and Old Findings
www.nngroup.com
People are not likely to read your content completely or linearly. They just want to pick out the information that is most pertinent to their current needs. We can design content that supports scanning by: Using clear, noticeable headings and subheadings to break up content and label sections so th
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Summary

People rarely read online, instead they scan for the information they need. We can design content that supports scanning by using clear headings, front-loading information, formatting techniques, and plain language. People often process content in a lawn-mower pattern, but the rich, diverse layouts of modern SERPs have caused the development of a new pattern, the pinball pattern. Technology changes quickly, but humans don’t, so understanding how people read online is key to creating effective content. Motivation, task type, focus, and personal characteristics all affect how much time a user is willing to spend reading.

Top Highlights

  • People are not likely to read your content completely or linearly. They just want to pick out the information that is most pertinent to their current needs. We can design content that supports scanning by: Using clear, noticeable headings and subheadings to break up content and label sections so that people can scan to find only what they’re most ...
  • If anything, we’ve simply observed new behaviors that have developed in response to design shifts (for example, the pinball pattern), but these are all symptomatic of the deeper truth: People don’t want to waste time or effort online. As long as we’re designing content that acknowledges that reality and helps to direct people to only the informatio...
  • We can design content that supports scanning by: Using clear, noticeable headings and subheadings to break up content and label sections so that people can scan to find only what they’re most interested in Placing information up front (in other words, “front-loading”) in the structure of our content, as well as in subheadings and links, to allow p...
  • People rarely read online — they’re far more likely to scan than read word for word. That’s one fundamental truth of online information-seeking behavior that hasn’t changed in 23 years and which has substantial implications for how we create digital content.
  • Since 2006, the ways we present language have changed.  Responsive design means that content can be displayed flexibly depending on the window width or device size.

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