Having been a web copywriter for many years now, I have to face the sad fact that people don’t read my copy. Yes, even though you think you’re reading this article now, you may in fact simply be scan reading it, whizzing across the page as fast as you can, zipping through my hard-crafted copy at a rate of knots.
How to get people to read your copy
When it comes to web copy it’s all about the magic F, or so the eye-tracking studies tell us. F is for fast, factual, functional, friendly and fruity copy!
The F Shape in action
So the web boffins are telling us that most web users read a web page in an F-shaped pattern. That is, They scan across the page twice horizontally, then scan down the page vertically.
This means that:
- Users first read the upper part of your page or content area (your branding, strap line, navigation and/or page header).
- Next, their peepers move down the page a little and read across a second horizontal line, slightly shorter than before (your sub header, image and/or article summary).
- Finally users scan down the page, skim reading (the rest of the stuff).
Eye-tracking heat maps
The heat map images below give examples of this F-shaped eye movement on an About Us page, a product shopping page and a search engine results page (SERP).
Red equals hot, hot, hot; yellow equals tepid; blue rather chilly; and grey is ice, ice, baby – no eyeballs at all.
From the above you’ll see that:
- About us – Long copy doesn’t go down well. While the title and the initial paragraphs get a good cornea action, the longer the page, the more bored the eyeballs get.
- Products – The image gets big eyeballage, the product description a little action and they’ve managed to sustain interest through to the bottom of the page (through use of bullets, I reckon).
- SERP – As we all know, the higher you are up the page the better. The top four listings here get interest but after that it fades to chilly. Most users would rather search again than scroll to the bottom of a SERP.
Fantastic F-shaped copy So next time you’re pulling together some content, consider the SHAPE as well as the keywords and the look of the content.
Here are some hot tips:
- Write a meaningful, explanatory header: This is the first bar of the F and is what could make users read further down the page.
- Make the first two paragraphs count: Squeeze as much of the interesting stuff up here and don’t ramble on – try to be succinct.
- Write for the web: Don’t cut and paste big blobs of print copy into your web pages. Instead, ensure you:
- Use sub headers to break up copy and ensure the first two or three words of the sub are the most important
- Keep paragraphs as short as possible.
- Use bullets to trim copy into edible chunks.
- Use contextual links rather than forcing users to scroll to the page bottom for a crappy ‘read more’ call to action.
- Use bold to highlight the words you really want people to read.
Time on site The overall aim is to get people to understand the content of your page as quickly as possible. These days a decent ‘Time on site’ result can be anything up to 30 seconds (we webbies are so time poor!) so be sure that your page is comprehensible in this time frame and you may just persuade them to do what it is you want them to do (read more, buy now, register, care, donate and so on).
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