The UX of Web Reading

Rachel Luxemburg was kind enough to forward me this report from Jakob Nielsen on how people read on the web.

I have always known that people do not read a web page the way they do a book or email. On the web, people will skim. They will pass whole blocks of text. Their eyes will jump around like mad. There have been slews of authors who point this out, like Steve Krug with “Happy Talk Must Die“. This article brings much needed statistics to the discussion. Some takeaways I get from it.

  1. The report itself is too long. I skimmed it.
  2. On an average visit, users read half the information only on those pages with 111 words or less. See the chart below

There are some techniques you can use to take advantage of this knowledge.

  1. Use color and bold and highlight and CAPS to emphasize the key phrases that you want the user to see. This also works on your resume. Red is the most “alert” of the colors, however anything with high contrast will do the trick.
  2. Use fewer words. Use declarative statements. Eliminate the fluff. CUT CUT CUT. It is critical to say what you want to say without getting verbose. A picture is worth a thousand words.
  3. Being repetitive is ok sometimes. Even though it’s more words, if you put your key message in multiple places, then the liklihood of someone reading it goes up. Luck of the skimmer.
  4. Use bullets and numbers. Easier to read.

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