How to Make Website Content More Readable

Do you know how people read websites?

Answer: They don’t.

Visitors to your website or any webpage on the internet tend to scan pages for keywords, headings, etc. How you layout the content on your website is as important as the words you choose to write.

Here’s one thing to know about how people read content on a website.

People Read Web Content in F-Shaped Patterns
Based on research by useit.com, people scan content on the web in F-shaped patterns.

  • First, people scan across the top of the page where the page heading is usually located.
  • Next, people scan down the page and then read across again horizontally.
  • To finish, people scan down the left side of the page.

If you visualize this pattern, it creates an F-shape, as shown in these eye tracking heat-maps:

F-Shaped Reading Pattern Heat Maps

Write and Layout Content for How Your Visitors Scan
We already know that people don’t read every word. They are going to scan your content for what is most relevant to them. To make sure your most important content is what is most likely to be read:

  • Use headings. Keep them short and put important words at the beginning.
  • Use relevant images next to your headings. Images draw attention and help set context for the information in that section.
  • Break up long paragraphs. Contrary to proper writing rules, it’s okay to take a long paragraph and break it up into smaller chunks.
  • Use bulleted lists and make the content in the list as consistent in length as possible.
  • Offset important information to make it stand out.
    • Use right or left side columns of the page.
    • Change the background on the content area.
    • Use larger font sizes.

Analyze Your Pages
Use Google Analytics to see how long people are on your pages to determine if people are reading the content or scanning it. If you were to time yourself reading a page and then measure that against the average time people spend on the page, you will have an idea if the visitor is reading the page or not.

By reviewing the clickable items on the page and measuring what gets clicked and what doesn’t, you can tell what call to action (CTA) is working and what is not. Use this information to make changes and optimize your pages.


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