May 30, 2006
Eyetrack III – Article-Level Page Design
Eyetrack III – Article-Level Page Design: "Tips
Be aware that introductory paragraphs are almost a guaranteed 'read' for online-news readers. So make them count! Rather than treating them as an afterthought, realize the power they have to make the news more interesting and accessible to your audience.
Recognize that introductory paragraphs may be the only thing many readers view. Also remember that those who want to read the text of a story will do so, whether or not there is an introduction present.
Keep paragraphs short. Web writing and usability experts (like Crawford Kilian and Jakob Nielsen) have been saying this for some time, but here is evidence. Long descriptive paragraphs that work in print probably need to be rewritten for the Web if your goal is to use all means to encourage readers to stick with the story.
Although the data suggest that a single-column article format is read more extensively than story text presented in a multiple-column format, those results may be determined by habit as much as — or more than — ease of use. Most webpages utilize a single-column format on article-level pages, and thus, most readers probably have been conditioned to read this way. Understanding this distinction is important.
On the topic of subheads, remember that initial interest, or lack thereof, seems to drive reading behavior at the top and throughout the length of any online news story. A subhead can help hold or recapture attention that is beginning to wane, but it does not appear to create interest in a story.
Keep the article-page average viewing sequence observed in Eyetrack III (text first; images later) in mind, but understand the variability within it. Remember that display words and the first few paragraphs are key elements for the reader."