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People scan content in an F-shaped pattern

In an eyetracking study, Jakob Nielsen found that users often scan content on web pages in an F-shaped pattern:
- First, people scan in a horizontal movement across the upper part of the content area
- Secondly, in a shorter horizontal movement further down the page
- Finally, in a vertical movement along the content's left side

According to Jakob Nielsen the F-pattern behaviour shows that:
- People don't read text thoroughly
- The most important information should be at the top
- Headings and paragraphs must start with information-carrying words that users will notice when they scan down the left side of the content

Links:

  • F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - April 19, 2006

See also: Research (129)  Text (24)  Eye-tracking (14) 

 

COMMENTS

I wonder whether this pattern is natural or influenced by past and existing layout patterns. In other words, did we "train" people to read this way from the layouts we use (which are typically very similar - nav down the left, etc.)

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson | April 25, 2006

 

Simon has more on the F-shaped reading pattern in a comment on another post.

The article he links to states that the F-shaped patteren is natural since we scan pages from the top left corner. Also, the structure of pages has influence on how we scan.

Henrik Olsen | April 27, 2006

 

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