15 Must Know Facts on How People View Websites (+5 for Mobile)

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how people view websites

Do you know what the first thing is on a website that draws your eye? And what pattern do people scan your website in? There have been many eye-tracking studies on this subject, and I’ll give you 15 most useful facts you should know.

The picture below shows 3 different websites and where people look on them. Red indicates the area, where people looked the most, yellow areas got a bit less eye-action, blue areas got the least views and the gray areas, well, people didn’t focus on them at all.

Almost everyone in these studies follows the “F Pattern”. As you can see, the more people scroll down, the more they lose focus and start mainly scanning your website. So always try to place the most important information in the top part of your site.

Here are the 15 facts you should know about how people view websites

When most designers and marketers look at websites they are building, they are not behaving as the intended user of that site. They are not interested in buying; they are not interested in finding more information. They are most likely making decisions on a site filled with “lorem ipsum” based on their tastes.

DON’T DO THAT! Focus on the behavior of real people.

1. Text attracts more attention than pictures.

As much as we love photos, the fact is that the majority of people will simply scan them. If you’ve got a point that you actually need to get across to a reader or potential lead, you’re much better off doing it via text.

2. People start viewing your website from the top left corner.

Remember that “F pattern” we showed you? That applies to virtually every single website. It’s how we’ve been trained to search for data and information.

Make use of this by putting your most important messages in this area and try to make your value proposition clear above the fold.

3. Readers ignore banners. Surprise, suprise.

Banners convert horribly. The modern world took it a bit too far with them at some point and we’ve been trained to ignore them and even develop a bad taste to brands that use them.

Don’t do it.

4. People only scan the lower parts of your website.

After people start scrolling down, the chances are high that they are going to be scanning and skimming your content.

To make the best use of this, make sure to use a ton of headings to summarize your key points. Make these descriptive and it’ll also help with your search engine rankings.

5. Short paragraphs work better than long ones.

Our attention spans are shorter than ever and that’s something you need to take into account.

No one wants to read a wall of text. Keep it short and get to the point.

6. Fancy fonts are ignored.

As “cool” as you think that font is, you’re probably better off not using it. New fonts are hard for people to process and you’re going to lose their already short attention.

7. Big pictures attract more attention than small ones.

If you use photos on your website or landing page, make them count. Big and bold photos will grab their attention and you’ll do well by including a concrete call to action on them.

8. Headlines also draw attention.

Use as many descriptive headings as possible. This is what people use to scan through your website. Once they find something related to their problem, only then do they dig deeper.

9. Visitors spend more time looking at menus and buttons than other parts of your website.

Menus and buttons are generally what lead us to solutions to our problems. Visitors pay extra attention to these as they want to see what the options are as soon as possible.

You should do the same. Pay extra attention to what you put in your menus and how you label your call to actions.

10. Ads, that are placed on the top or left part of your website, get the most views.

Most people will never scroll down to the bottom of your website. If ad impressions or clicks are your main source of revenue, you’ll want to optimize for them to be in the “viewing pattern”.

11. Ads, that are placed inside or below an awesome piece of content, get more views.

Ever get into a state of flow while reading an article and then end up on an entirely different website? The chances are high that this was a well-placed in-content ad.

If you’re creating value with your article, these are often unexpected and thus get a bit more attention.

12. Lists are better at keeping your reader focused than large paragraphs.

Again, the same principle applies. No one wants to read a huge wall of text, especially if they already know a bit about a topic.

As a marketer, if I see an article about new tools I only skim through the headings to see if there’s anything I haven’t already heard of. The same applies in other industries. No one wants to waste time learning the same thing twice.

13. Some people even completely ignore large chunks of text.

Well, at least we know you’re not one of them 🙂

14. White space is good!

If people get overwhelmed with a ton of text, there’s a good chance they’ll leave.

15. The menu works best when placed in the top part of your website.

A few “innovative UX designers” decided that it might be a good idea to start putting website navigation into the sidebars instead of a traditional top menu.

Well guess what. Over the last 20 years, that’s not what we’ve been conditioned to and it doesn’t work. People get confused and they leave for your competitors.’

Wrapping Up

Our friends at ConversionXL write that F-pattern is no longer the case for search results. However it should still hold on regular content pages and it’s not that much different from the original F-pattern.

google eyetracking

5 Facts on How People View Mobile Web:

  1. Reader’s attention is focused more on the top left corner of a screen.
  2. Keep your content short & simple. Reading long paragraphs needs concentration, which is something that mobile users don’t have.
  3. Mobile phone users absorb visuals more than text or content. (But if an image doesn’t supplement your content, you can do away with it).
  4. Users pay most attention on the top 2/3 of the screen.
  5. Short, but hard-hitting headlines draw more attention. Make your headlines count.

Read more about how to make user-friendly mobile website here.

There you go. Some points from this list are pretty basic and elementary, but a good reminder never hurts. So the next time when you’re writing an awesome piece of content or building your new website, keep these points in mind. You now have the knowledge – use it!

Sources: BBC News | directcreative | GoogleBlog

Photo via Visual hunt

Priit Kallas

Priit is the founder and CEO of DreamGrow Digital, an internet marketing and social media company. With his 20+ years internet marketing experience he is Helping companies to understand and use the digital marketing to reach their target audiences. He's also writing on a personal growth website FixWillPower.com. He has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences on different aspects of internet marketing. Priit is also the organizer of Digital Elite Camp, a leading traffic and conversion event.

95 Responses

  1. Abrar Shahriar Alam says:

    Insightful. The user intent difference between website visitors and mobile visitors are perfectly restated. What is the avg. time duration of both users in different platform?

  2. dc says:

    thanks priit, that is interesting! i found that heat maps are really helpful and in fact i start to track some of our website with ptengine.

  3. maryam khan says:

    Good article. I am sure many will be surprised that text draws more attention than pictures. I am learning to use lists more frequently.

    I am going to move my share buttons to the top!


  4. sindhu says:

    I really appreciate you, because that much of stuff collects and shared to us.

  5. allu.srinivasa reddy says:

    nice post,very usefull tutorial.Thank you

  6. allu.srinivasa reddy says:

    great post,very usefull tutorial.Thank you

  7. manfaat pisang says:

    I’m using simple template with 2 Column, which is the best templates 2 columns or 3 columns

  8. Ash says:

    Most of the people find directly what they want..and they don’t want to read all the content. Study shows that maybe 20% want to read more are girls and 80% read less are boys. Boys are more on analytical thinking

  9. Barbara McKinney says:

    Thanks for sharing these info.I would agree that text attracts more attention than random pictures. However, visuals with text such as info-graphics are very good at grabbing attention when someone is browsing.

  10. Brandon Bunch says:

    Good article and very useful tips. Though nowadays, we can use infographics to draw more attention.

  11. Alex says:

    White space is great! It helps to focus in quickly on what you want to read. I usually check out pictures briefly, but any fancy effects/flash based stuff immediately get ignored, as do advertising banners, and pop-up ads usually force me off the site immediately. It’s just insulting.

    A great list of things, well researched!

  12. Anand Singh says:

    Points works more than a paragraph. I just know this facts by reading your points!

  13. Ray @ The Crude Oil Trader says:

    Think I will move some small banners into our body, give it a try. Thanks!

  14. Peeko says:

    A superb post, complete opposite to what I was always told!

  15. Dita Peskova says:

    Great article. We’ve got recently an analysis of clicks on our website and I was really surprised how people sometimes click on completely random places, like in the middle of pictures for example.

  16. Heather says:

    A very interesting list! Thanks for the reminder, we often get so caught up in delivering good content that we forget that the layout of the site might mean it doesn’t get read! Interesting to know that text gets looked at more than pictures…

    • SherlockOlms says:

      If you notice, all the example of heat maps had very few pictures in them, in fact only the center example seems to have a significant picture. In that one, it is the picture that draws the attention and not the text on the left side. According to the map, the text on the left is almost ignored. The link to the original authors site shows that his site is all text. I think that people have moved on and become more visual than textual. It would be interesting to see the study replicated with a better mix of text and graphics.

  17. Dillon says:

    Great insight again as usual. Testing is key IMHO. Even if you expect certain results, its a good idea to confirm it with monitoring software.

  18. Ionut says:

    We used this on our website and it works great.

  19. Janice says:

    Well, I think you have some pretty good facts here..I would have guessed that pictures & banners would be before text.

    I have my sharing buttons on the left side & at the end of my post.
    Thanks for this info, I will keep all in mind..

  20. Shireen Louw says:

    What I have found is that you need to constantly test your design, and try and improve it. What looks good to you might not be the best option for your users.

  21. Georgia says:

    Some of them I knew, some I didn’t. But I’ve seen Google eye heat maps before and they also said the top left and immediate center is the most important.

  22. Donne Parma says:

    Very interesting tutorial.Thank you!

  23. Thailand Property says:

    Really good post and something I must be aware of when designing my new website.
    And probably I need to re-design my old ones a bit too 😀

  24. Mike Lopez says:

    I think over time people’s attention change from one section of the website to another. I remember a time when banner ads were the best, then people got used to it and developed banner blindness. Then came text ads which was so in until people adjusted to that as well.

    The same is true for websites but I do agree that text attracts more than pictures unless the person visiting your site is looking for a picture. After all, people surf the web to read and to watch.

    In the end, there’s no single formula. If you’re a blogger than chances are people will focus more on your text than your photos. If you’re a “photo-blogger” then things might be different.

    Just my 2 cents.

    – Mike

  25. danny says:

    Everything in this post is so true I was telling this to a business associate just the other day . I am glad to have come across this post to show my argument is valid thank you

  26. Vips says:

    Get all the latest updates for sales & marketing professionals, including tips and best practices


  27. Javi says:

    Data says that people look at text longer than at pictures. But I think it is wrong to deduce that text has more impact on your page. It is to be expected that text gets more attention because it takes longer to process a text than a picture. Same is probably true for large images vs small ones.

  28. The Women Talk says:

    I agree with all the points, except text part. I think, websites like pinterest getting popular is because ppl like to see pictures. If text is written in bullets like your post here, then it delivers far better results. Thanks for sharing these great points though!

  29. Eric - Negocios en Internet says:

    WOOOW !!
    I have to go update my site with this information, although I can not believe that the text is better than the pictures … great post

    we keep reading.

  30. Caneta | Videos de Capoeira says:

    I really liked the guys point on paragraphs and lists to keep the attention of visitors. good article 🙂

  31. top10 says:

    God sake i was totally wrong the right side was my favorite. Swapped to the left thanks.

  32. Gregory Osborne says:

    I’m really glad that you shared this, very informative information…

  33. Ann Druce says:

    I see why you have your social media share buttons both top and bottom of your article!

  34. Dave - Customer Service Consultant says:

    Very useful post Raul.

    This is just to prove that you only have first 10 seconds to impress.
    Job interview,Customer Service, Face to face sales and now we have stats that websites fall in the same category of 10 seconds rule.
    Thank you for the post.

  35. Shiful Alam says:

    Really a great post, Roul!
    I, myself, see the areas you pointed out. Thanks.

  36. Al says:

    Thank you for sharing Great and Helpful information.
    I will definitely keep this in mind.

  37. Ann Druce says:

    I particularly like the comment that ads near great content get more attention. Of course, ensuring your content is great is the hardest part.

    Great advice, thanks.

  38. pavanesh says:

    need more inputs to understand visitors more

  39. Jai says:

    I like it however Its just the matter of content.

  40. Paul Shapiro says:

    I think some of these need expounding upon. For example: Text attracts more attention than pictures. The truth is: Headlines attract more attention than pictures.

    • Priit Kallas says:

      You are correct. Headlines are info rich text. But the other side of this is that people avoid banner-like elements.

  41. Ian Smith says:

    Just about to tweet this. Its great when large/detailed subjects are distilled into simple lists like this.

  42. Raman says:

    Point 15: Menu works best when placed on the top part of your website.

    That’s right. But, for blogs with lesser number of categories they even work well without menus. Its just the matter of content we have.

    I do consider these heat map systems. But, when google tracks highly useful info on website then it is the best part which is required for website owners. So, I consider high info content first then other factors.

    Thanks for info. It is actually very useful. Keep it going.

  43. Josh says:

    wow. reasonable, practical advice that establishes credibility. and I thought SEO was dead

  44. Lenny says:

    Great post!

    Your second point “People start viewing your website from the top left corner.” is targeted toward the read LtR world, but asian websites are structured differently. Similarly, heat maps in other countries show different patterns. It depends on what purpose your website serves, how you are presenting your content, and what kind of users you have. More than following a strict rule that you will never stray from, its invaluable to understand who your customer is and what they want.

  45. top 5 says:

    Very helpful tips, and i already use it, but my ads ctr is stil <0.20% 🙂

    • Priit Kallas says:

      top5, depends where you place your ad. In Adwords we have got CTR more than 45% in some cases.

  46. Jeff Whittle says:

    Thanks, Lawton, good stuff to know.

  47. marty says:

    This totally changed the way I write post .Thanks for sharing

  48. Ranit Rana says:

    Great article !! just want to know a few more things:

    1. Which are some of the fonts which grab more eyeballs?

    2. Is there any prefernce for colours?

  49. Jim Dougherty says:

    Great insight Raul – love how it is substantiated by the heat maps. Was surprised by the insight about text being more attractive than photos – thanks for your work!

  50. Hank_Scorpio says:

    Hilarious that there is a point about banners being ignored, what pops up out of the bottom right corner, a fucking banner.

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Hank_Scorpio, I would say that it is not a banner. But it is a question of definition.

  51. Jason Stevens says:

    Great refresher. I was viewing the analytics of my website this evening and number 2 is definitely the hot zone. Prior to developing your content, one must know who they are targeting and why. With this information you can direct content and media to this consumer (in my case) or customer to increase conversions.

    Any information on bullets? I find myself reading bullets before paragraphs.

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Jason, I don’t have the links at the moment but Jakob Nielsen says that lists rock when giving bits of information. So do lists.

  52. Geoff says:

    ‘TEXT ATTRACTS MORE ATTENTION THAN PICTURES’ is a misleading comment. I understand you are trying to be bold putting this as your opening gambit.
    Really you should reconsider the statement.
    Your tests were likely to involve dull pictures from an image library as opposed to a giant cyborg woman spearing a planet with her ex husband’s torn penis.

  53. Michelle says:

    I stubbled across your website today through Linked-in and I am so glad I did! Thanks so much for the fantastic info! Keep it up

  54. Jack Martin says:

    I dig this. But I think #1 needs clarification. I think eyes might just linger longer on text because it takes much longer to digest than a photo. I still think pictures are still your best attention-grabber for a blog post. Images help readers make sense of the words. They work together.

  55. Safwan Rahman says:

    Great post!, but some points are subjective

  56. Tamara Vuorinen says:

    Interesting facts and good to know for the future. I agree with white space is good. It’s hard to read if the background is black or dark.

  57. Cynthia says:

    I agree with most of the material but I think it all depends on the type of website. What product or services you are marketing. Some require more pictures then text. Seeing is believing they say!

  58. Jaime says:

    Fantastic info. I will definitely take note in future design while I market my blogs…thanks much!

  59. Al Jareds says:

    Actually surprised that text commands more attention than pictures. I know it used to be that way, but lately video and photos seem to have more impact than they used to.

    Also as a print designer I must concur:

    WHITE SPACE IS GOOD! Very good….

  60. How does this affect asian people? says:

    Only question is how would this f-shape pattern affect asian people? Reading manga, gotten used to viewing things from right to left.

    Wonder if these facts still apply

  61. Birdy says:

    Thanks a lot. It really helps me for my articles!!!

  62. Dan says:

    Thanks for the insights Raul! I’ve just started researching and going into UX so this info is extremely helpful.

    I’ve included this post in today’s Posthuman newsletter because I thought this would provide a ton of value for my readers who are primarily interested in building great apps for their budding startups (here is a browser version of what went out today http://eepurl.com/hkSAg).

    Keep up the great work!


  63. Chandra says:

    Is this based on any study if yes what is the source. BTW great article would like to see more soon

  64. Jahangir says:

    WOW the #1 and #3 and very surprising, it is always said that pictures draw more attention to visitors but the facts you are sharing is making that statement wrong.

    Thanks for the beautiful info.

  65. Chad Tabary says:

    I wonder how much of that has to do with the way the website is laid out though. I’ve seen heat maps that showed the exact inverse. Well everything top is best, but I’ve seen heavy top right also.

  66. Neicole Crepeau says:

    Good general post. Of course, these are just general patterns. The particulars of a website can change the F pattern to some extent. How you lay out the site, with what text, fonts, contrast, etc. will draw the eye to different locations.

    The one piece of data that surprises me is the pictures versus text. I’d love to know where this data came from and what kinds of pictures we’re talking about. For example, we know that the human eye is drawn to faces, so pictures of faces generally draw people’s attention. Which kind of pictures were tested here?


    • Priit Kallas says:

      Thanks Neicole! I totally agree that in most cases the F pattern doesn’t apply. I would say, only in wide single column text.

  67. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the great (and concise) information!

  68. Niek says:

    What are your sources? Because if you base these facts solely on the eyetracking images shown in this article, you might be jumping to conclusions.

    I am asking this because two of your facts differ from general best practices. Specifically facts 1 and 5.

    I think that there is a bit more to say about these points.

  69. Sheridan Voysey says:

    Very helpful indeed. What happened to the ‘top right-hand corner’ theory as the most viewed piece of website real estate?

    Thanks a-plenty.

  70. Tony Noland says:

    I like the analytical approach here. Fonts and graphics aren’t nearly as important as good content.

  71. Nick Martin says:

    Great post! Or at least I think it was. Like everyone else apparently, I only got 3/4 of the way through and assumed I got the point 😉

  72. Chris Tompkins says:

    Great post! I think what is really interesting is with all of the changes in technology, website layouts, applications and all the rest – the eyetracking tests have not changed in 10 years! Looks like we will never change how we view the web.

  73. Nathan Leigh Davis says:

    Pretty much a case of eye tracking confirming what we already instinctively know! Did we need eye tracking studies to tell us any of this?

    Readers start at the top left corner – well yeah, we do that with any form of media. That’s how we’re taught to read.

    Headlines and large images draw the most attention? Not really a revelation either.

    Also somewhat annoyed by the lack of clarification here too. What are fancy fonts? Do you mean cursive typefaces? Condensed? Expanded? Serif?

    Elementary? No, this is something else. The article is far too short. How do I know what your talking about if you don’t expand on your points or provide any references? Maybe short articles and paragraphs aren’t so good?

  74. Ludwina Dautovic says:

    Great content. Thanks so much. I’ll post it on my facebook biz page. Ciao, Ludwina

  75. Hank says:

    Nice tips. I hate having to go back and move things on the site after finally getting them the way I want them to look, but things like this have to be followed.

  76. Tomasz Jablonski says:

    Eye tracking for the win. Major car companies use the technology to build in accident avoidance systems into their cars.

  77. Priit Kallas says:

    Here you can get an overview of eye tracking and its applications http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_tracking. Practical web related stuff http://www.useit.com/eyetracking/

  78. Gordon says:

    Good to see someone who is looking at internet marketing using a more analytical approach instead of urban myth and magic.

  79. Isela Espana says:

    Great post! Im curious to know how you were able to track what they were looking at.

  80. Marc Miller says:

    Good article. I am sure many will be surprised that text draws more attention than pictures. I am learning to use lists more frequently.

    I am going to move my share buttons to the top!


  81. Mart Prööm says:

    Great post, Raul! Seriously.

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