An ePublication from Ecommerce Partners

Expert ECommerce Tips: Understanding How Users Read a Website

By | October 11, 2011 11:23 am

Many of our clients come to us after spending a significant amount of time and resources designing or redesigning their website, and are still getting poor conversion results.  We see it all the time.  What many clients might not have been aware of is that their new design could have been doomed from the start. More and more research about user interaction is shedding light on the ways that people read and respond to the information they see online.

The Research

By studying people’s eye movements, researchers have been able to determine which parts of a web page viewers tend to look at first and most often.  Readers tend to make an “F-shaped pattern” when scanning a website, and especially while scanning product pages. Moreover, consumers don’t read text word-for-word, but instead scan the page for the most important points.

The image below displays a heat map of a user’s eye movement while viewing a webpage.

The examples (from left to right) represent an “about us” article, an ecommerce product page and a search result page from Google.  As you can see they all make the F-shaped pattern.

A second eye movement study also shows that readers prefer short blocks of text with bulleted lists or bolded words and phrases.

Consumers also have a preference for text that is informational, rather than promotional. Putting too much “hype” on your product pages can actually slow readers down, since they feel mentally compelled to stop and disagree with overly promotional content.

What’s the take away?

Taking these trends into account when designing can have a dramatic effect on the success of an ecommerce site. Web pages should be arranged in a way that makes it easy for people to notice and respond to the most important elements. Don’t work against consumers’ reading habits–it’s a losing battle. Rather, optimize your website to fit the way consumers view a page, and consumers will get the most out of the information presented to them.

Jildor shoes is one example of a company that takes advantage of a layout that emphasizes both the “F shape” and the power of quick, easy-to-read bullet points. Although shoppers might not consciously notice that the pages are easier to read and understand, the precision of a good layout has converted to more orders and consumer retention.

It’s important to keep in mind that taking advantage of the “F-shape” is not only important for ecommerce websites. This tactic is also important for company blogs and informational pages.

Our ECommerce Partners website dedicates most pages to building unique, informational content. On our ecommerce solutions page, we made important text easier to identify by combining the use of bullet points and a user-friendly layout—a simple but effective step.

As much as we would like visitors to read through every word on a page, this expectation is just not realistic. With that in mind, the best solution is to optimize a site with the most reliable information available. We know users read in an “F-shaped Pattern” and respond best to bulleted points, so the in examples above we have taken that into account.

The Conclusion

Maximizing website usability will increase conversion rates and maximize profits.

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About Us

About Ecommerce Partners:

Founded in 1998, ECommerce Partners is a full-service, ecommerce and interactive agency headquartered in New York City. Best known for our unique process methodology, we combine Internet expertise, creative talent, and business know-how to help clients across a variety of industries achieve rapid, measurable online marketing results.

True to our motto, "We build businesses, not just websites," we provide large and mid-sized companies with a full range of Internet marketing, website design and ecommerce solutions geared to maximize online revenues.



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