Users create an impression or scan the content of a webpage before reading it in its entirety. Scanning is the process of orienting to a new information context (webpage).
Reading on the web
Web-reading behaviour is affected by both the presentation method and the reader intention:
- Screens are not an ideal reading medium as the resolution (sharpness) of letter forms on screen is roughly 20% that of print. Studies indicate that users read up to 25% slower on screen.
- The web requires people to continually make choices, e.g.; select a website from a search result, use navigation, compare sources of information. Scanning supports the decision-making process.
Scanning behaviour should be taken into account when preparing content for your website or blog:
- chunk content
break a subject into meaningful self-contained topics/webpages
- use an inverted-pyramid writing structure
begin with the conclusion or summary and then present arguments
- use informative headings
avoid poetic allusion/puns when presenting information, e.g. use ‘Migratory patterns’ over ‘Southern Exposure’ to describe the migratory behaviour of geese
- hyperlink text that describes the destination page
hyperlinked text acts as an additional heading level to provide cues as to the content of the surrounding paragraph
This also helps with Google’s rich snippets and answer box listings on search result pages.