Cross-posted from the Impetuous Geek
No one is reading online content! Yes, that's right, according to a "readability expert." The proclaimation isn't all bad news; it's just one more indicator of human adaptation to the digital environment. The word is that everyone now scans web pages. Without going into the whys and wherefores and bemoaning this development; how people now read online content is fascinating! It also supports some of my personal ideas about the formatting of text on digital and printed pages.
I started looking into readability research to quote in a professional development grant proposal. It wasn't easy to find much on this topic. There were lots of resources for readability tests; Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid grade level, the 850-word Ogden "Basic" or "Simple English" set, but I wanted research.
Here's what I found; yes, we scan text - in an F shaped pattern! Eyetracking researcher Jakob Nielsen summarized that
"Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe."
"In our new eyetracking study, we recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of Web pages. We found that users' main reading behavior was fairly consistent across many different sites and tasks. This dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:
- 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. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F's stem."