By Geoffrey Gosa
On average, users read less than one third of the text on a web page, according to the report: »How Do People Read on the web: the Eyetracking Experience » written by the Nielsen Norman Group. Only a small number of you read all the way through articles on the web. Ever wonder why?
The first reason that springs to mind is the difficulty of remaining focused on an article. External links are numerous, inviting you to go and see another article or even another website. They certainly do not help you focus. People rarely read web pages word by word; instead, they scan them, picking out individual words and sentences. Studies have shown that only sixteen percent of users read word-by-word.
Secondly, the wide variety of Internet websites certainly does not help. When surfing the Internet, users are constantly assailed by thousands of websites. They have to switch rapidly between pages to avoid spending too much time on the Internet. Consequently, readers cannot stay focused and rarely make it all the way down the page—as a matter of fact, many people do not even make it halfway.
So why do users click on a page to read an article, if in all probability they will not finish it? Credibility is crucial for a web user since it is unclear in his mind who is behind the information and whether it can be trusted. High-variety is not the same as high-quality. The quality of the article will make the user scroll further. In fact, credibility can increase the reading thanks to good writing or outbound hypertext links.
In order to attract readers, websites use different devices such as highlighted keywords, typeface variations or colors. The choice of the subheading is quite important: it has to be meaningful and catchy. The structure of the article has to be relevant and ordered: one idea for one paragraph, and the very first sentence of the paragraph has to retain the main argument. Contrary to an essay, a post has to start straightforwardly with the conclusion and above all, it has to be short.
People generally share links from articles they have not fully read. If someone recommends a page online, we cannot assume the page has been read entirely. In other words, there is little correlation between sharing and reading. On the contrary, articles read deeply do not necessarily generate a lot of shared links.
For instance, if someone had any inkling of sharing this post, they would probably have done so after having read only the first lines or even after having read the title and seeing the picture at the top.
The Internet has changed our reading habits: there is always something else to read, to look at, to watch. In other words, the Internet has brought upon us the age of skimming.
-Johnson, Louanne. ‘Ten Reasons Nonreaders Don’t Read.’ Scholastic, n.d. Web. 16 February 2016.
-Manjoo, Farhad. ‘How People Read Online.’ Slate, 06 June 2007. Web. 16 February 2016.
-Nielsen, Jakob. ‘How Users Read on the Web.’ Nielsen Norman Group. 01 October 1997. Web. 17 February 2016.
-n.p. ‘How People Read on the Web: The Eye Tracking Experience.’ Nielsen Norman Group. n.d. Web pdf. 16 February 2016