Back in the day (i.e. the 1980’s) the mixtape was romance at its finest. A lovestruck young man would sit in his bedroom and record a list of meaningful songs onto a cassette using his tape deck. It was a significant investment of time. If someone gave you a mixtape, they really liked you.
And then CDs and digital music took over the world. All of a sudden no one could play their mixtapes anymore.
They were the wrong format.
And the romance just isn’t there in a playlist that someone can drag and drop in about a minute and a half.
I’m here to tell you that the same thing has happened with the written word on digital media. Your audience has too much content competing for their attention. This means that content presented in the wrong format gets no attention. But there is a way to format your web content so your reader extracts the most important information.
F-Shaped Eye Tracking
The Nielsen Norman Group is an industry leader in user experience, and they’ve investigated the way internet users engage with webpages.
They discovered the F-shaped eye-tracking pattern which became well-known in the world of online content creation. The medical world has been a little slow to adapt to this research, but being medical in nature doesn’t exempt your content from format issues. Here are some suggestions for taking advantage of this information in your online content.
The Top of the “F”
The first eye motion the NNGroup found in the F-shaped pattern is a left-to-right sweep across the top of the page.
Create a captivating headline to take advantage of this motion. Eighty percent of readers read no further than the headline. Make your headline exciting – a promise of the value your reader is about to gain by reading further.
The Middle of the “F”
The next eye motion readers make is similar to the first. They sweep the page from left-to-right, only this time they’ve dropped a little lower on the page.
Capitalize on this by packing a serious punch in your lede. The lede is the attention-getting device you use at the beginning of your content. Need some suggestions on how to approach it? Here are a few.
The Vertical Line in the “F”
Finally, the reader will cast their glance down the left side of the page from top to bottom.
Take advantage of this eye motion by making the body of your content easily scannable.
- Use bullet points so readers can quickly grasp your information as they scan.
- Use short paragraphs beginning with high impact words so the reader can see the value in the content.
- Use color, italics and bold wisely to catch the reader’s eye and draw her further into the text.
Remember that we don’t live in a cassette tape world any more. Information consumption is quick and there is a lot of competition for the attention of your reader. So use formatting to your advantage and you’ll have a much better chance of winning
the girl your reader’s attention.