The F Word (And Why Your Content Needs More F’s)
Relax, I’m not here to deliver some big sermon on swearing, or tell you that you need to pump your copy full of expletives in order to be noticed. Nothing like that. Today, I want to talk about a whole different type of ‘F’. You see, people don’t read in straight lines on the internet. They don’t go from left to right, reading every single word in the line before going down to the next line. Instead, we read in a distinct ‘F’ pattern – and you should be using that to design your website and its content.
What Is The ‘F‘ Pattern?
To sum it up, the ‘F’ pattern is the most common eye scanning pattern of people reading blocks of content online. To go a bit deeper (because you didn’t come here for summaries), it’s how your users read your content. In just a few seconds, their eyes whizz across your content in a distinct F pattern. We know this because there have been studies done using heat mapping, which shows us exactly where readers eyes go, and how long they stay there. Honestly, it’s pretty cool. It’s made up of 3 components:
- Users read in a horizontal movement first across the upper part of the content area. This forms the top bar of the F.
- Next, they scan in a vertical line down the left-hand side of the screen, looking for headings and points of interest in the paragraphs initial few sentences. When they find something they like they read across in a second horizontal movement, typically covering a shorter area than the previous one. This is the second, lower bar of the F.
- Finally, the users scan the content’s left side in another vertical movement and scan across the full lines when they find something interesting, in smaller, off shooting F’s.
For more visual people, it looks like this:
It’s pretty much the ‘go to’ layout choice for text-heavy websites, like blogs and news sites. So if any of your pages are a bit text heavy, then the F pattern is perfect. It’s also the most comfortable layout for Western readers, who have been reading top to bottom, left to right their entire lives.
How To Use The F Pattern In Your Content
Prioritize Your Content – When you’re creating a page or post, pick out your 3 most important pieces of information, and make sure they fit into that reading line. Once you’ve identified what you consider important and what your users will be most interested in, it’s simply a matter of making sure they hit those ‘hot spots’.
Set Initial Expectations – Your first two paragraphs are the most important – so get your key messages at the top. On pages, make sure your important content is at the top of the page, level with the navigation bar if you can. From there, use the F pattern to place your sub headings and other important areas.
Design For Scanning, Not Reading – Too many people write content assuming they’re going to be read word for word. With so many pressures on our time, people tend to speed read most things, which is code for scanning. So rather than hope you’re the exception, design your pages and content for scanning. Start your paragraphs with enticing keywords to catch the attention of time poor readers. Cover only one idea per paragraph, and use bullet points regularly. Make your content as easy to san as possible.
Utilise Your Side Bar – Sidebars exist to get users involved on a deeper level. So use it! Feature anything you want users to see in this side bar – such as a list of ‘related articles’, a search function to help people find specific things, or a social media widget.
And there you have it. If you want more engagement, you need more F’s. And if you’re not sure how to structure your content to fit that pattern, then call someone who does. At Eleven Eight, we specialise in helping businesses create compelling and engaging content, which means we know a little something about reader psychology! To find out more, just get in touch with us, or book a consultation here.
Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to drop a few ‘F’ bombs in your content when they’re needed too!