The digital age has altered many perceptions and actions in ways that were commonplace not long ago. While some procedures have become streamlined, others have gained layers of complexity and depth.
Something as straightforward as reading text and interpreting information has been redefined, sometimes even reinvented, as the distribution of that information has evolved. Audiences now absorb data differently, reading and consuming it in ways that can be far different than the simple left to right, top to bottom we learned in school.
For companies that rely on digital content and onsite marketing to reach a customer base, knowing the difference between the old techniques and new could determine how well a message engages with your audience. Ultimately, those differences might very well determine how your marketing campaign converts from views to sales that drive your business.
How people read online in the digital age
The digital landscape was born and bred to match the shortened attention spans and fast-moving pace of the modern world. It caters to a mindset that craves immediacy, providing vast amounts of information in the quickest, most efficient manner possible.
If your site content looks more like a philosophy textbook than a listicle, highly curated piece filled with informative infographics, or bullet points, your content is likely to be passed over for a more skimmable solution. The most efficient digital formats rely on the speed and convenience required for information today.
Your digital voice and message must be succinct. They need to quickly tell a story, engage the audience, and provide convenient answers or risk being skipped or forgotten. Pages must be designed to load quickly and rely on digital content that holds a user’s attention.
Content needs to be convenient
Video content and infographics excel at capturing the eye of a prospect, having unique abilities to keep the viewer’s attention long enough to relay your message. According to Vidyard, videos that are less than a minute and a half retain around 53% of viewers whereas videos over 30 minutes keep a mere 10% of viewers engaged. Additionally, personalized videos maintain a retention rate of 35% more than similar non-personalized videos.
Due to the success of these formats, we can ascertain that information should be delivered in bite-sized pieces, utilizing smaller paragraphs, bullet points and other easy to read formats. Make your message easy to understand for a lasting connection with your consumer base.
This landing page from Microsoft uses large blocks of hard to read text and likely isn’t as effective as it could be if it broke the text up into more readable chunks.
Conversely, this landing page from ON24 uses bullet points and minimal copy allowing the viewer to quickly understand the value proposition of signing up for the webinar before they decide to convert.
Don’t treat an illuminated screen like a page in a book
Scientists have delved into our digital reading habits to quantify this need for brevity and streamlined design. In studies that have tracked the eye movements of test subjects as they read online content, distinctive movement patterns have emerged as common threads.
Readers of digital content are inclined to read the first few lines across the horizontal plane of text, then skimming downwards on the page. When something catches their attention, whether that’s highlighted or bulleted text, a graphic or video, their eye tracks across another horizontal plane, afterward resuming the downward skimming until reaching the end of the piece.
The resulting patterns of eye movement are reflected in heat maps that track the reader’s attention as it moves throughout a web page. More often than not, those heat maps form a distinctive F-shaped pattern in red as a user filters through the content of a page with dense content like a blog post or lengthy sales piece.
In some cases, a Z-pattern design is leveraged. The viewer again reads the first few lines left to right, but the eye movement then tracks downward in a diagonal fashion, completing the experience with a final left to right eye movement across the bottom.
Building on these findings, the header and images are critical in capturing a reader’s attention, and then short and concise copy must quickly get your messaging across either with engaging insight and solutions. In content-dense pages, like a sales page, subheaders and quickly absorbed data are critical to spurring the additional horizontal eye movements, emphasizing the need for bullet points, bold and concise wording and informative digital content like infographics and video.
Whether an F- or Z-Pattern is most appropriate, embedding a persuasive call-to-action along each respective pattern is crucial to generating conversions. When you intentionally place elements along the pattern where you know the visitor will scan, they will be more enticed to click.
The Instapage Heatmap Visualizer provides 3-in-1 tracking functionality — mouse movement, clicks, and scroll depth.
User experience first
Your onsite content should be designed with a complete experience in mind. Think of a consumer’s browsing experience as a guest’s stay in a hotel. Your homepage serves as the lobby, providing an overall aesthetic and necessary information that is emblematic of your brand’s mission, voice, and message. It creates an overall perception of your organization, exudes the ideal brand identity and provides convenient links for additional information.
Your landing pages are more like the hotel rooms themselves. No matter how inviting a lobby might be, guests will immediately check out of a hotel if the rooms don’t appeal or, at the very least, meet expectations. Similarly, landing pages need to provide a continuity by leveraging message match to engage the consumer and draw them further into the sales funnel. Landing pages are specifically designed to convert views into sales.
Here’s an example of Loomly using message match with their Google Ads campaign:
Upon clicking on the ad, you’re taken to this landing page which reiterates that the tool is simple and includes a 15-day free trial:
Leverage how people read online on your next page design
In a crowded marketplace, your content needs to be engaging and agile, able to draw and keep a consumer’s attention quickly. If it fails, it will never generate the conversions to sales you need. With our expertise in creating effective landing pages that convert, Instapage is the only platform with 100% customizable templates and the most advanced analytics in the industry.