Landing Page Patterns: How People Consume Web Content

Last updated on by Ted Vrountas in Conversion Optimization

No matter how well you design your landing page, it’s unlikely visitors will see every element of it. What’s even more concerning is the information your visitors miss could result in you losing conversions.

Luckily, there are ways to control for this. By understanding landing page patterns—where visitors look and when they look there—you can ensure your audience sees all your essential content.

Types of landing page patterns

According to Nielsen Norman—the group that identified the F-pattern with early eye-tracking research—there are several distinct patterns of reading on the web. Which one your visitor uses to consume your page depends on several factors, like how you’ve arranged your page, how easy it is to comprehend, what you’re offering, etc. Here are a few of the most common, and some you may not have heard of.

The F-pattern

The F-pattern of reading is the best-known landing page pattern. It starts with a fixation on the page’s upper left-hand corner, then progresses as follows:

  1. The user will scan horizontally across the top of the page, forming the upper bar of the “F.”
  2. The user will return to the left margin of the page and scan down until they reach an element that attracts their eye.
  3. The user will scan horizontally, but not all the way across, forming the lower bar of the “F.”
  4. The user then returns to the left margin and scans vertically down the rest of the page.

Advertisers can learn a few things from this. First, the top of a page gets more attention. Users are more likely to consume headlines and featured images than body copy. Second, visitors will probably read the first few words on a horizontal line, but maybe not the last.

None of this is particularly surprising when you consider that users are scanning for specific information. They’re not reading for pleasure. They’re looking for headlines, images, subheadlines, bold text, and bullets to get your page’s takeaways without having to read all its content. Early eye-tracking studies from Munich’s Direct Marketing Association confirm this.

It’s important to clarify that users follow the F-pattern when they’re consuming content specifically, not when they’re exploring a new page and scanning across the navigation menu. The pattern is also rarely a perfect “F.” Many times, it forms an “E” on longer pages with more content to scan.

The Z-pattern

The Z-pattern is another prevalent reading pattern on the web. Like the F-pattern, it begins with the user entering from the upper left-hand corner, then skimming across the top of the page to form a horizontal bar. Also, like the F-pattern, Z-pattern readers move back to the left margin after they’ve consumed the top of the page.

Unlike the F-pattern, though, the Z-pattern gets its diagonal crossbar from the way users move back to the left margin. In this case, they’re not creating the second bar of an “F” by jumping to the left margin and reading across again. Instead, they appear to be skipping a lot of content in the middle of the page.

The difference here is that the F-pattern is more applicable to text-heavy pages. Of course, there’s going to be more horizontal left-to-right movement on these pages, because users are reading content. But your average webpage won’t have that much copy. That’s why you have the Z-pattern.

This zigzagging is the result of users moving between content chunks on your page. While they do it slightly differently, in the end, both F- and Z-pattern users are looking for the same thing: information relevant to what they want to know.

Other common landing page patterns

Though the F-pattern and Z-pattern are the most natural among web users, they’re not the only ones. According to NNG, there’s also:

Landing page patterns: What does it all mean?

It’s easy to get caught up in all the ways people consume content on the web. If you’re like most advertisers, you’re always looking for an edge over your competitors. And while optimizing for reading patterns can get you that edge, it’s not worth obsessing over. That’s because eye-tracking research on landing page patterns doesn’t tell us a whole lot that we don’t already know. Most crucially:

Overall, the exact landing page pattern your visitors follow will vary based on the page. Instead of aiming to accommodate F-pattern readers or layer-cake readers, your goal should be to create content that’s easy to consume.

Follow these tips:

Ultimately, the F-pattern and Z-pattern don’t benefit readers or advertisers. Deliberately arranging your content in these alignments can result in users skipping valuable information. The best landing page designs draw maximum attention, but they also accommodate the scanning reader.

Want to create hundreds of attention-grabbing, personalized landing pages for all your audience segments? Get a complimentary demo of Instapage to find out how.

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