Do you want to know a secret?
Visitors to your website aren’t reading everything you’ve put there – they are mostly skimming.
I know, I know – you’ve put a lot of time and effort into writing these long paragraphs describing how great your business is and that potential clients would be crazy to go with someone else.
Unfortunately, most aren’t reading it.
So what can we do to make sure we get visitors to at least consume the really important points we want to get across?
Let’s dive in and I’ll show you.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, on an average web page, visitors have time to read at MOST 28% of the words – 20% is more likely.
Based on research by Harald Weinreich, who studied some 59K+ page views of typical users, he found some interesting behaviors that can help us lay out the content on our websites to get the most views.
- The ‘Back’ button was the 3rd most used feature on the web.
- Clicking buttons is the second most used feature
- Clicking hyperlinks is the most used feature
He also found that most visitors to a website spend some of their time understanding the page layout & navigation, as well as looking at images & icons.
How We Can Use This Information To Improve Our Site
Let’s look at what we can do to improve the amount of information we get across to visitors as well as the time spent on our websites.
Wall Of Text = BAD
One of the takeaways from this research is that putting what designers call a ‘wall of text’ on your website is a bad idea.
You’ve been on sites like this – there is just paragraph after paragraph of text. Be honest, do you read all that?
A better option would be to break up the information into short paragraphs of no more than three sentences. Think of it like bullet points without the bullet.
Use White Space
White space is the space between items on your website. When you try to jam a bunch of information (text, images, buttons) into a small space, it’s hard for someone skimming your site to take in all that information.
Break up the information into smaller pieces and separate the pieces by white space. This is especially important on your homepage. You want visitors to get a 30K foot view of what you do then dive deeper into a specific product or service by clicking a button or link.
Use Images & Icons
For visitors that are skimming, images and icons are one of the first things they notice.
These elements let them know what this section of your site is about and help guide them to the information they’re actually looking for.
I like to use an image that represents the overall idea of the section, and use icons in that section to drill down into the finer details.
The icons almost act like a bullet point, but specific to what that sentence or two is talking about. You can see how this would be helpful for someone skimming a site.
See the example below from my own site.
Buttons & Links
Buttons are a great way to call attention to something and create clear calls to action. Now that all of us are using smartphones, we’re accustomed to clicking buttons all the time.
I mix the use of buttons & text links throughout the sites I design. A general rule of thumb: buttons indicate a bigger action – hyperlinks a smaller one.
Clear Navigation & Layout
As we saw from the research, visitors to your site do look at your navigation and the overall layout of your website before they start scrolling.
A general rule on navigation – no matter where a visitor is on your site, they should always be able to quickly find what they’re looking for and navigate there with a click.
Structuring your content to take advantage of visitors’ behaviors is an important strategy for getting the most out of your website.
If we know that the average visitor reads only 20% of the words on any given webpage, then the use of images, icons, white space, and a clear navigational structure are important for getting your message across quickly and efficiently.