Scanning web pages

You may not know this, but it’ll pay you to read on …

SCANNING web pages is different from reading print pages,  as Jakob Nielsen explains. Your eyes scan the screen in an “F” or an “E” shape. So, place key messages top left, along the top lines, and use the left hand column.

Reading web pages is harder! It takes us longer to read a screen than a printed page. Your web visitors have to work harder to concentrate on your web content.

Make life easy for them. Format your web pages to accommodate quick scanning of your content. (Or they’ll be off!) Because we all have low boredom thresholds on-line. (If you don’t believe me, check out the number of seconds your web visitors stay via your own web statistics.)

Gimme a Break!

Break up your content with paragraphs breaks, punctuated with headers. Readers will get a taste of what’s coming and be more prepared to read on… If you’ve already summarised your text via a heading, life is less arduous. Take this example. “Michael Jackson dead: foul play suspected!” You’ve got the gist of it already.

In an e-tail context: “Order now; 20% off!” works the same way… you’re emotionally primed to know what’s coming. Prime the audience and they’ll work with you, not against you. (Ask any comedian to verify this.)

Working WITH the audience is always an advantage. Ask any salesman: they’ll tell you a number of tricks to mirror body language, copy phrases etc. wins over the client. We can’t mirror the  body language of our web visitors (what a blessing) but we can try to be empathetic via use of language.

I’m hearing voices…

You might have several web voices:

  • The caring Information-Giver
  • The trust-me-I’m-a-specialist
  • The Competition Prize Announcer
  • The academic expert
  • The friendly web editor

All of these “Voices” might appear on the same stage: your website.

Thus, your website may have many voices. But none so sweet as the one that whispers “the Krug’s on me and my pilot is waiting…