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F-Shaped Reading Pattern on Web

Jun 12, 2020

The F-shaped reading or scanning pattern is an approach people take for reading on the web. This F-shaped pattern was found out by Eye Tracking Research conducted by researchers at NN Group. While users reading the content on the web, it appears to look like the letter “F”. So, a person begins reading a column of text from the left side, and as they read they move to the right side. And then they again move to left and now while coming to right, they read a little less. While progressing through the reading it becomes less and less while coming down the page. This F-shaped reading pattern is observed while users reading the content in mobile devices too.

The F-shaped reading pattern happens because users are trying to minimize the work they need to do and maximize the benefit they get from that work. Page layout also plays a major role in the F-shaped pattern in reading. The F-shaped pattern is not the only pattern that users use to scan the web. There are other patterns like the Spotted pattern, Layer-Cake pattern, Commitment pattern.

image credits : https://www.crazyegg.com/blog/lessons-eye-tracking-studies/

How F-shaped reading pattern works?

  • The user first scan through the top of the page from left to right
  • Then, the user moves from top to bottom from the left side to scan the subheadings and bullet points
  • Lastly, across the page to scan the highlighted text

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Reasons for the F-shaped reading pattern:

There are several reasons for F-pattern reading. But the majority of the reasons are:

  • When there is a huge block of text with less or no formatting.
  • When the user tries to be more efficient on the page with less work done.
  • When the user is not committed or not interested in reading every word or they might not be the right audience.

F-shaped reading pattern good or bad?

In F-pattern reading people miss a big chunk of content. The skipped content may be of high importance. But users are not aware that they are missing out the important information. This will result in business loss also bad for users. It means users will skip important information because it is placed on the right side of the screen. Formatting the text will reduce the impacts of F-pattern reading.

Though F-pattern reading is bad for both business and users, it is the dominant behavior on the web. It’s bad for users because they don’t get the maximum benefit from that particular page or site. But it doesn’t affect users on a bigger scale. Because users don’t aim for maximum benefits from a single website. They aim to get benefited from the web as a whole. Users gain value by visiting multiple websites and spending little effort on each site and getting benefited as a whole. So, only the business gets affected on a larger scale due to F-pattern reading.

Tips to increase readability in the webpage

Do not force the users to take efforts to do a job instead reduce their efforts prioritizing and formatting the content on the page.

  • Include the most important points in the first two paragraphs of the page
  • Importantly use headings and sub-headings. Make those text different from normal text. Make it larger or use a different color or use bold font weights or a different typeface
  • Use the most important words in the headings and subheadings that conveys the brief of the paragraphs
  • Use borders or background colors to visually group important text lines and phrases
  • Use bullet points for better readability
  • Use bold styles for important words and phrases
  • Chunking the text

With these users can able to scan through the text easily and if those words or things that they’re interested in. And if they’re interested in, then they will read the normal text under that heading. And if not they will skip to the next heading.

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Different users have different goals and motivations to scan the web. It’s very difficult to control their actions, but it is very much possible to optimize the experience by enhancing the page layout, prioritizing, and formatting the content. Thus, helping the users to achieve their goals which in turn helps to prevent the business loss due to F-Shaped reading pattern.

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