What do your customers really see when they read your website pages? Read on for illumination from Alexandra, our guest blogger extraordinaire who has an eye for interesting and pertinent information.
When a customer visits your company’s website, what do they really see?
The truth? A big fat “F.”
Don’t take it personally — it’s not a report card. The human eye literally scans in the shape of the letter “F” — picking up hot zones in the header region, jumping down to the sub-header line, and then skimming straight down the page.
Sophisticated eye tracking tests performed by the Nielsen Norman Group, the Poynter Institute, the Estlow Center for Journalism and New Media and Eyetools provide new insights (no pun intended) into how we interpret webpages.
In addition to unveiling the distinctive F-shape pattern, eye tracking experts have highlighted a few additional techniques for effective web copywriting.
The Whisper Effect.
Ever notice how college professors speak softly to command their students’ attention? Sometimes, small text equals closer reading. As Steve Outing and Laura Ruel of the Eyetrack III project explain, “Smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior (that is, reading the words), while larger type promotes lighter scanning.”
Short & Sweet.
Copywriters instinctively know that short, concise paragraphs work better — both online and offline. Long blocks of dense text often get ignored, because they feel too daunting. As Dean Rieck of Direct Creative notes, “Big blocks of type look imposing and difficult, like reading a Faulkner novel.”
Words for Facts. Images for Stories.
Factual information — like names, numbers and locations — are best expressed through words. But high-concept processes, systems and stories are better conveyed through multi-media methods: graphs, images, illustrations and videos.
1-800-Got-Junk does an excellent job of illustrating their business model in this animated movie, while Rice to Riches — a luxury rice pudding restaurant in New York City — has a fantastic “brand storytelling” intro video on their website.
For more eye scanning insights, check out Eye Tracking, Inc. — a company that measures website usability, and Eye Tracking Update, an aggregate site that pools together the latest findings in the field.
Alexandra Franzen is a writer + editor + organization freak who freelances for d.trio marketing as a copywriter. You can find her blogging at Unicorns for Socialism and tweeting up a storm at @Alex_Franzen.
F-pattern eye scan images via Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox