How Do People Read Online?

Nicholas C. Rossis

Most of us are writers, one way or another. We share our thoughts in blogs and ebooks. And you may have noticed that I have been experimenting recently with emphasizing certain parts of my posts, breaking up longer texts in chapters, and playing around with various formats.

I am doing this to test the so-called F-Shaped pattern of reading. This is a description of how people read online. It was first identified in 2006 by the Nielsen Norman Group. They recently published an update, clarifying that:

  1. Scanning on the web does not always take the shape of an F. There are other common scanning patterns too.
  2. The F-pattern can be bad for users and businesses.
  3. Good design can prevent F-shape scanning.

Let’s examine all this in detail, shall we?

What Is The F-Shaped Pattern?

F-shaped pattern | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books Image: Nielsen Normal Group

As you can see for the heatmap above, people’s eyes focus on certain…

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