This is one of my favorite “take-aways” from Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug is the myth that people actually read websites. This book is a great introduction to website usability and can give you some simple points to keep in mind when deciding how to build your website. This book is practically required reading here at Anchor Wave, but you don’t have to be a geek to understand what Steve is talking about.
So – if people don’t read websites, what do they do? They skim them.
Questions your visitors are asking
Most people first’s interaction with any web page is a quick skim of the content and navigation so they can orient themselves with what they can expect to read on the page. Think about it… when you land on a new home page you look for certain indicators, and sub-consiously, you’re asking yourself a series of questions about the website:
- What is this website?
- How do I get around and navigate this web page?
- Does this page have the information I’m looking for?
- Should I read more detail, or should I move on to another page or website?
In a matter of moments with a quick glance of any web page, these questions are being answered. The better job that your website does in helping your visitors answer these questions, the more likely you’ll keep their attention and guide them to the goal line.
Learning from Print Media
Take a look at the front page of any major newspaper. You’ll notice that the one thing they all have in common is that they are all easy to skim and read at a distance.
They do this with:
- Large headlines
- Bullet points
- Pull out quotes
- Bold words and sentences
This is not by mistake. How much do you think newspaper sales or readership would drop if the front pages look like this:
The answer: it would have a big impact. So, why do so many websites break this simple rule of usability? It takes a little effort to plan to build your web page so clearly communicates the message of the page.
- Use headlines that are descriptive
- Use short bullet points that are easy to skim.
- Include photos that are descriptive of the page’s content.
- Make “calls to action” clear – tell them what to do next.
- Use captions on photos.
Next time you’re building a web page, or adding new content to your website think about the myth that people actually read websites. Now you know better – people don’t read websites, they skim them.
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