How Readers Scan Your Page

by The Copy Nazi Banned
21 replies

Could Changing Your Landing Page Design Double Your Conversion Rate?





How do readers view your landing page? Do they start at the top left and read across and down? Or do they read the heading and then go straight to the order button?


A 1997 report by web expert Jakob Neilsen PH.D. says that people rarely read Web pages word by word. Instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. In research on how people read websites Neilsen and his colleagues found that 79% of their test users always scanned any new page they came across - only 16 percent read word-by-word.


As a result, Web pages have to employ scannable text, using

  • highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)
  • meaningful sub-headings (not "clever" ones)
  • bulleted lists
  • one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
  • the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
  • half the word count (or less) than conventional writing.
Neilsen found that credibility is important for Web users, since it is unclear who is behind information on the Web and whether a page can be trusted. Credibility can be increased by high-quality graphics, good writing, and use of outbound hypertext links . Links to other sites show that the authors have done their homework and are not afraid to let readers visit other sites.


Users detested "marketese" - the promotional writing style with boastful subjective claims ("hottest ever") that currently is prevalent on the Web. Web users are busy: they want to get the straight facts. Also, credibility suffers when users clearly see that the site exaggerates.
Perhaps the most important thing about the inverted pyramid style landing page template is that readers will get the gist of the story from the beginning if 'who,' 'when', 'where', 'what' and 'how' are addressed in the first paragraph.


Readers Often Scan Your page in an "F" Pattern - Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.
F for fast. That's how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website's words in a pattern that's very different from what you learned in school.
In our new eyetracking study, we recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of Web pages. We found that users' main reading behavior was fairly consistent across many different sites and tasks. This dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:
  • Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F's top bar.
  • Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F's lower bar.
  • Finally, users scan the content's left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F's stem.
From F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
#page #readers #scan
  • Profile picture of the author Preben Frenning
    Thanks for sharing!

    I can imagine using pictures like this will make it way easier to sell copywriting services to offline businesses as well!

    There are also a few very good sentences here that I think will make copywriting services more attractive alltogether.

    Thanks again
    - Preben
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  • Profile picture of the author HayleyWriter
    Thanks for sharing a terrific article and information! I started out life as a print journalist and many of the same techniques of readership transpose to the web, but some don't. My tip for IM marketers is to check where your own eye goes on each web page you open. Think about what drew your eye to that feature - was it moving or animated, the colour, or the position? Do this for every webpage you enter for a week and you will have a good idea of what attracts attention on any webpage. Then go back to your own webpage and see what you have in the spots that attracted the most attention!
    Are you using the space wisely or wasting the automatic "look here" spots.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kennyh
    Thanks for that, Metronicity. Every IMer should have a copy of that heat map printed and stuck on a wall next to their desk. The point about using meaningful sub-headings and bullet points is excellent, and too often ignored.
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
    Originally Posted by Metronicity View Post

    Users detested "marketese" - the promotional writing style with boastful subjective claims ("hottest ever") that currently is prevalent on the Web. Web users are busy: they want to get the straight facts.
    I guess that's what they told him... but as we all know... it ain't necessarily so.

    At least from a sales point of view... but I guess he's talking about a content page, which may have a different purpose, depending on who writes it and why.

    Interesting statistics, though... thanks for the great find Mal.

    -Dan
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    • Profile picture of the author Hugh Thyer
      Great post.

      It shows that while the headline is important, the whole deck copy needs to work as a whole. That means...pre-head, headline, key points, photo and caption.

      I'm not convinced that the heat maps show where people naturally scan, but that they show that people will scan areas of interest. You'd probably find that the scanned areas contained subheads, photos, testimonials etc.

      Some time ago at Michael Fortin's forum a letter was posted which contained a whole lot of highlighting. Was it John Carlton's sex letter? Not sure. But the point was that people scan, so the highlighting let the scanners pick up the story. The highlighted bits were like a mini-sales letter on their own.

      This means your sub-heads/highlights/bolds/captions etc should stand alone. You shouldnt need to read the text AROUND them to understand what they're saying. They should be clear if read on their own. Because...people will scan your letters, find them and then read the area around them.
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      • Profile picture of the author Ashley Gable
        Originally Posted by Hugh Thyer View Post


        This means your sub-heads/highlights/bolds/captions etc should stand alone. You shouldnt need to read the text AROUND them to understand what they're saying. They should be clear if read on their own. Because...people will scan your letters, find them and then read the area around them.
        I disagree with this a bit. When I read a sales letter, or "scan" it rather, the interesting, powerful subheads are what catch my eye, which in turn makes me go back a few paragraphs and start reading to figure out what the subhead is all about.

        It doesnt have to make sense by itself, just eye catching.

        Interesting about the highlighting though. Did it say anything about the test results - with and without the high lighting?
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        • Profile picture of the author Hugh Thyer
          Not sure if it ever ran without the highlights. A lot of forum members complained that there was too much highlighting but IMHO they missed the point.

          Fair point though, the eye-catching pieces need to stand alone in that they should say enough to get people's attention without the reader having to understand what has been said before it.
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  • Profile picture of the author dirtmaster
    Great insight there. Thanks for sharing Malcolm.
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
    Banned
    You've really got to be judicious with the yellow highlighter. Too much and your page looks old-fashioned - like something from ten years ago. I prefer to put hand-drawn underlining, circles and arrows these days. I think yellow highlighter looks cheesy.
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
    Banned
    This is interesting - ClickTale | Web Analytics by ClickTale | Visitor Movies, Heatmaps & Form Analytics

    They say -

    • Watch Movies of your visitors' browsing sessions to analyze their behavior
    • Heatmaps show where visitors click, where they look and how far down they scroll
    • Link Analytics shows every interaction, hover, hesitation time, and much more
    • Form Analytics reveals problem fields in online forms that cause visitors to leave
    We will show you how to:

    • Optimize landing pages
    • Maximize conversions of online forms
    • Minimize shopping cart abandonment
    Disclaimer: I have no affiliation/no commercial interest in this and I haven't tried it yet. I signed up for the free version but that doesn't give you as many options as the paid. I'm dying to give it a try.
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    • Profile picture of the author Matthew Shields
      What resource does everyone use for heat maps?

      I've looked at crazy egg but haven't heard of anyone else who uses it...just curious.

      Happy Trails
      Matt
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      • Profile picture of the author SuzanneR
        I use the free version of clicktale--which includes a heat map feature. For my purposes, the free version works fine. You only need to go to the paid version if you get huge amounts of traffic.
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        • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
          Banned
          Originally Posted by SuzanneR View Post

          I use the free version of clicktale--which includes a heat map feature. For my purposes, the free version works fine. You only need to go to the paid version if you get huge amounts of traffic.
          Mate, I got 506k uniques to one of my humble blogs back in May. And guess what? It wasn't monetized properly. Still kicking myself.
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        • Profile picture of the author Grapho
          I have been using clicktale for a few months and it really improved my understanding of people's behaviour.

          Two examples:

          A rounded orange header box kept getting clicks... that was beyond my understanding until I changed it to a square gray. No clicks anymore. Rounded = Button = Click.

          The most amazing thing about clicktale is seeing people move the mouse as they read the copy - word by word. Sometimes someone goes back and virtually underlines a concept moving the mouse. Bolding those words worked wonders.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Peters Benn
    Hey Mal,

    I did some recordings using clicktale - and I found some pretty odd things. People slowed down at my 1 year guarentee, and often left the page. I changed it to 90 days and things improve a lot. Then I shrunk the logo and got even better results.

    As a copywriting guru - do you actually implement any of the things mentioned in that report or is it more of case of someone speaking without any testing data?
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    If you're alert... somebody might create a post in this thread who has a totally in-depth report about this very topic in their sig. ; )

    ClickTale was a real mindblower for me when I first used it. It confirmed some things that I always ASSUMED were true.

    For example, I can say conclusively from WATCHING users that - YES, they do read the headline and deck, then zoom down to the bottom... then back up and work their way through the copy bit by bit before they buy.

    Fact... "video evidence" even.

    But more often than confirming things, it surprised me.

    For example, videos that do not AUTOPLAY, often don't play AT ALL.

    Hmm. That SUCKS and was completely opposite of what I thought the "time on page" metric was telling me.

    It's like a narcotic. Very addictive once you've gotten used to watching.

    Best,
    Brian
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  • Profile picture of the author Ronak Shah
    Malcolm,

    You're absolutely a ridiculously insane guy... here's why...

    You reveal the most insane and amazing copywriting information in this forum.

    I am absolutely thrilled to have you buddy

    Your point is most appreciated. Thanks for the great tip.
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    Now, Here's The REAL DEAL:
    Either I make YOU at least 10 times of what I charge YOU OR
    I'll Write YOUR Sales Copy AGAIN Till YOU Make MUCH MORE Than THAT. Guaranteed*.
    *Terms & Conditions Apply. Email me at ronak[at]ronakshah[dot]name right now.
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  • Profile picture of the author samlb
    This is great info mate... I was about to videos on our site upon launch date and your insight gave better clarity.

    Indeed this is a great tip. Thank you .
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