20.4 Ways People Scan Your Website

July 16, 2008

Blog Optimization/SEO

realtor building
We are trained where to look. So show us already.

The laws of the Internet (marketing-wise) are different from any other medium. Probably the most important thing to note about the Internet when it comes to marketing is that it’s user-interactive.

In other mediums (newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, etc.) people have to read, listen, and wait for all the necessary information they are looking for come to them. On the Internet, however, this information is widely available and can be found by simply scanning and clicking.

A wise marketer would take this information and use it to their advantage and apply it to their website.

Some websites create more sales than others simply because its design is designed around the human psyche.

Simply having a website and throwing a bunch of content or products on there is no where near as effective as a well formulated and planned out website.

Once you know certain human behaviors you can design your product (or website) around them.

Let’s take a look at some typical human behaviors on the Internet.

Typical Human Behaviors Online

western part of the world…

  1. Read left to right.
  2. Bright – yelling at you colors are not good for backgrounds or in large areas.
  3. Short attention spans (especially online).
  4. Scan web pages and don’t read every word.
  5. Want information instantly without working too hard to find it.
  6. People’s eyes get tired if they read a computer screen too long.
  7. Read bold print (got me through college) / headings (size matters).
  8. Scan links, buttons, and menus.
  9. Don’t like flashing images.
  10. Don’t like to feel as if they are being hit hard with advertisements
  11. Prefer a font size they can read and are use to on the Internet.
  12. Prefer bulleted lists for quick information gathering.
  13. Will typically read short blocks of text (i.e. short paragraphs) more than they will read a large block (empty space on a website is ok).
  14. The upper and left portions of a website typically get viewed.
  15. Strange fonts are ignored.
  16. Websites with a lot of free information and content keeps visitors on your site longer and the longer they are on your site the more likely they will remember it and buy.
  17. Calls to action (telling your visitor what to do) work better and get more clicks than telling them what they can do.
  18. People buy from places they trust. Give them a reason to trust you. Give them free information or something else that might help them to trust you. Trust symbols work great.
  19. Many people read the links at the bottom of the page.
  20. Roman numerals are good for numbered lists (I’m bad about that one).
  21. Advertising banners typically are skipped and not seen.
  22. Visitors like navigational links near the top of the page and links in a left sidebar are typically viewed.
  23. For blogs, content is the most important thing to readers; therefore, blog readers prefer content on the left and navigational menus work better horizontal and/or on the right.
  24. People scan websites in a F pattern.

I’m sure there’s more and I’m sure you can search the Web for an actual study taken. My knowledge comes from:

  • 6 years of college (you heard me right – and includes summer school each year as well)
  • Years of working with people and designing websites
  • Reading case studies
  • Testing on my websites
  • Examining MY online behavior

That last point I made is something you should do yourself.

Over the next few days while you’re online, note to yourself where your eyes are drawn to on websites and examine your click-through behavior. Chances are you’re not the only one like that. Then go back to your website and see how people must be viewing your website.

Do you give them what they need in the key areas they scan? Do you tell them what to do and not just ask?

If you think about it, website designs are typical, just like a car is typical (that is, people are use to the pedals put in the same place, the steering wheel positioned to one side, etc.).

Over the years, websites have been designed much the same and therefore people are trained to view websites in a particular way. So give them what they want.

Image by lulacerdaji

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About John Hoff

John is the lead instructor inside the Blog Training Classroom Video Course. He's been blogging since 2007, authored a WordPress Security ebook, and was recently featured at Niche Profit Classroom as an affiliate rising star.

View all posts by John Hoff

7 Responses to “20.4 Ways People Scan Your Website”

  1. Barbara Swafford Says:

    Hi John,

    What an interesting post.

    When visiting new blogs, the first thing I look for is the content. After I’ve read the current post, I look for the “About Me” page, previous posts, and the layout/attractiveness of the site. Once I know the site, all I “see” is the content.

    I don’t like sites with a black background or tiny fonts. They are too hard to read, so I don’t.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..It’s Not Your Fault I Can’t Spell


  2. John Hoff Says:

    Hello Barbara,

    Yeah blogs are a little different than normal static websites – they play by different rules. The reason is a blogger comes to a blog for a different reason than consumers come to a typical website which sells something.

    In a blog, the content is the most important thing as bloggers are in search of information and commenting. They aren’t looking for “Web Hosting.” Therefore, the content on blogs go on the left since that’s where their eyes are naturally drawn to.

    So if a blogger wants to promote a product or service, their best chance for visibility is in their content (i.e. write about it or insert an ad inside their content).

    You may notice, however, that my blog’s content is on the right and not the left (which conflicts with what I said). My rule of thumb is if a blog is only a supplemental part of your overall website, it’s best to not confuse your visitor by shifting everything around. I prefer to keep my website’s functionality as uniform as possible.

    What do you think about that?

    However, for static websites that sell a product or service, things are a little different. These website visitors come to a site because they are in search of a product or service that your company has to offer. Therefore, show them what all they can find by giving them easy navigation in your left sidebar.

    I’m curious, when you go to a website to buy something (not blogs), where are your eyes naturally drawn to?

    And I couldn’t agree with you more, typing over a black background is a no no. If you really like black, make sure the content area’s background is white (or close to it).


  3. Marelisa Says:

    I notice that some bloggers post frequent, short posts, while others post about 3 times a week but their posts are longer. What is your opinion about that? My posts are long so I try to make sure to have many paragraphs and subheadings, as well as images. I agree with your typical human behavior points.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..What is Love?


  4. John Hoff Says:

    Hey Marelisa :)

    I’m not sure what opinion you’re asking there. As far as SEO I’d think the longer post would have a better chance only because the longer your copy, the more chance you’ll type out a keyword phrase someone might type into Google search.

    I’ve only been blogging for about 9 months but from what I can tell, it doesn’t matter if you write small and often articles or large and less often articles when it comes to the number of subscribers you get or a buzz about you.

    It seems more about the value you’re providing your readers and how focused your topic is (I feel mine is a bit too general, personally – but then again there are many kinds of entrepreneurs out there).

    I’m like you, my posts are usually a little longer and I try to use h2 tags for my sub headings (good for seo).


  5. Cath Lawson Says:

    Hi John – thank you. This is really useful info. I’m trying to improve the navigation on my blog and also starting to think about ways to monetize it, so I’ll be referring to this article a lot.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Is Blogging Putting You at Risk?


  6. John Hoff Says:

    Hello Cath,

    I’m glad you found it useful. And your blog template has a ton of room on the right where you could do pretty much anything you want.

    I too have been looking into monetizing my blog. I have a Google AdSense account but I’m reluctant to put it on here as I don’t know anything about those websites I’d be referring people to. For the moment, I decided on throwing on an Amazon widget I’m sure you see where I reference some books I know I can stand behind.



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