The Internet is Changing our Reading Patterns

People want the Internet to be fast. In fact, a recent report states that “1 in 4 people abandon a web page that takes more than four seconds to load.” If that’s true, it shouldn’t surprise us that we are also developing a new way of reading: when you track people’s eye movements the “dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F.” The following is a description from a sizable study called “Eyetracking Web Usability“:

  • 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. This last element forms the F’s stem.

Here’s some pictures of an eyetracking heatmap to help you get this more clearly:

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