Improve your pages to match how users read on the Web

Blog posts are often presented as a long and very detailed page with no subtitle and that could be considered the transposition on the web of an essay, but in this case the author has not acquired all the principles that are taught in courses on the subject. Even if we must salute the effort to lay a text as long, apparently in one go, that does not mean it is what users are looking for when they visit a site. What they expect, we know it from a statistical study on the issue by two researchers, and published in an article entitled "How users read on the web." (Ref below).

Here is a summary.

John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen have discovered that 4 users out of 5 scan the web pages are used to take words from some paragraphs, rather than reading them word after word, from the start to the end of the text.
Therefore, if you want to make a page to respond to their expectations, this is how it can be made so that it can be covered globally:

  1. Create significant sub-titles rather than clever ones.
  2. Use lists, just as this one you are reading ;)
  3. Highlight important words.
  4. Avoid long paragraphs : only one idea per paragraph.
  5. Start by the conclusion, at global level and for each section.
  6. Be credible, one doesn't know who has written the text. A good writing style is required, avoid a marketing style and always quote your sources with outbound links.

Each item brings something in terms of memorizing by the reader, and his interest in the page.

From the study by the two authors, here are the improvement for each rules and at the end the effects on readers of all rules combined together:

  1. The starting point: a marketing paragraph without any of the improvement described above, it is given a reference value of  0.
  2. The text is rewritten to be more concise: 60 % of improvement for readability, and for what is memorized by the reader.
  3. Using again the starting text, a list is created to ease scanning: 50% of improvement.
  4. The original text is rewritten in a neutral style without marketing phrase: 30 % of improvement.
  5. The previous modifications are combined all together: neutral text, concise text, one idea per paragraph, and a list:

    124 % of improvement!

Original article: How users read on the Web.