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Web Psychology 101: Practical Lessons

October 14 2012

brain technology smallWhether you're building a website or crafting the perfect email subject line, understanding how and why people use the internet is key to connecting with them successfully.

If you knew, for example, that only 16% of web browsers read an article all the way through, how would that change your approach to, say, blog writing? If your answer is to make the post more scannable, you're on the right path. By considering the behavior of your online audience, you can create a web presence that visitors respond to.

Tips for Scannable Content

It's true--a whopping 84% of web users will only skim your blog, website, or email. In fact, researchers estimate that you have only 3-8 seconds to capture a visitor's attention. If browsers don't find the information they're looking for, they won't hesitate to move on.

So how do you create content--whether a blog post, email, or web page--that draws a reader in? By visually breaking up plain blocks of text to make it scannable. Visitors want to know, at a glance, that your content is relevant and worth their time. Create a reader-friendly experience by integrating the following tips.

  • Headings - Break your content into logical sections, giving each one its own title or heading. These bolded titles catch the eye and let the reader know what to expect. Search engines love this as much as web surfers do. You'll be rewarded with better SEO if you properly use HTML heading tags.

  • Bullets - Internet users love lists. They're easy for readers to digest, and--bonus--they make things quicker to write for you. Don't go overboard, though. Even lists can lose their appeal if they continue for too long. Limit yourself to 5-6 bullet points MAX.

    Tip: Save your second best bullet point for last. This introduces an element of surprise--people often expect that the least important point will be last. This will nudge scanners to double back and re-read previous points more carefully.

  • Short Paragraphs - Huge blocks of plain text are intimidating to readers. Keep your paragraphs short to keep your readers engaged. Aim for 2-4 sentences per paragraph for best results. The same goes for sentences, too--avoid winding clauses or run-ons. Keep things concise and easy to understand.

  • Images - The human eye is naturally drawn to images. You should always have at least one image in any blog post or on any page you create. Position relevant images next to your main points to help draw attention. Besides losing psychological appeal, not having an image makes your content unshareable on Pinterest, and creates a far less attractive (and less likely to be clicked on) link on Facebook.

    Tip: Studies show that human faces garner the most attention. Take advantage of our natural curiosity about other people by using images with faces, when appropriate.

Further Reading

Eye tracking studies have shown that people scan web pages in an "F" pattern. Consider this when choosing a layout for your website. Will your most important information align with this shape? Learn more in "F"unctionally Organizing Your Website Information.

Timing is everything when it comes to effective communication. Discover optimal times of day for blogging or sending email.

Other articles of interest: Birdview IDX |