About reading and not reading on the net

by Guidebook, Text design

On the internet, the word "reading" takes on a completely different meaning. Because here, people do not read line by line - and certainly not every word. Instead, texts are scanned and random samples are put through their paces. How does reading behaviour on the internet differ from browsing through a printed book? And what are the reasons for this digital "reading laziness"? 

From Scanning & the Scheme F

The digital era is also one of time poverty. We not only have almost unlimited possibilities, but also the technical prerequisites to access knowledge and information at any time and within a few seconds. But as the possibilities grow, so do the expectations and pressures - on ourselves and from others.

The result: we have no more time.

Of course, this is also reflected in our reading behaviour on the net. Pardon, Scanning behaviour. Because there is no reading in the classical sense. Try it out for yourself!

With the question in mind "Are these lines worth my time?", the reader picks out a part of the text and thus makes an initial quality check. Presumably, the so-called F-pattern, which was discovered by the Danish website usability researcher Jakob Nielsen, is also used here.

Nielson found in his Eyetracking experiments found out that web users scan texts in an F-shape, among other things: the reader concentrates on the first few lines, then jumps to another paragraph and then focuses predominantly on the left-hand side of the text - i.e. the first few words of each line.

This, combined with the fact that most users do not scroll to the end, leads to a somewhat frustrating result: On average, users read a maximum of 28% of content. More likely, according to Nielson, are even only 20%!  That's not exactly an uplifting statistic for passionate writers.

Where does the impatience come from?

But where does it come from that web users are so impatient and do not seem to appreciate texts on the internet adequately?

On the one hand, the Reading on the screen more strenuous for the eye than from a sheet of paper. As a result, we read online 25 % slower than print media.

In addition, with the infinite amount of information on the internet, the reader has little choice but to scan.Much of the content is of poor quality, others simply not relevant to individual needs. We simply do not have time to read through everything in detail.

Within a few seconds we therefore decide whether a website is worth the attention or not. In this decision, it is not even the text quality that plays a role in the first place, but the Web & Text Design in General.

Not to be neglected is certainly also the amount of diversionary manoeuvresWe are at the mercy of all these things on the web. Further links, flashing advertisements, pop-ups... it is difficult to concentrate on the essentials. There is also the danger of "drifting off" while reading on the web (Hello Facebook...) is According to a study by linguist Naomi Baron higher than when reading a printed medium.

When assessing reading behaviour, it is also quite important to consider the motivation of the reader. Do they read for pleasure in their free time? Or is he specifically looking for certain information for work, for example? After all, the internet is very much used for research purposes and for this it is not necessarily necessary to read sentence by sentence.

Do we forget to deepen ourselves?

Some scientists are quite critical of our scanning behaviour on the net. Do we thereby learn to delve into a topic and critically examine its content and meaning??

But fortunately, most people still prefer reading on paper and they still exist: the real bookworms.

In addition, digital texts also offer opportunities. For example, for old people or people with visual impairments. For example, those affected can have texts read aloud to them on the computer with the help of certain programmes or adjust the font size in the eBook reader or tablet with one click.

What to do as a page editor?

Nevertheless, web reading behaviour initially gives the impression that it is hardly worth putting much effort into good texts these days. Nobody seems to read them properly any more anyway. Or do they?

Wrong! Because if a website and its content is first classified as relevant by the viewer - i.e. the wheat has been separated from the chaff - then the viewer will definitely take the time to pay more attention to it.

For you as a site operator, this means two things:

For one thing, that you exclusively High quality and relevant content compose should. Scrap already exists en masse and is sorted out during the scanning process.

On the other hand you can make it easier for the user to read on the net. An important step in this direction is an appealing web design. Garish colours, too many advertisements or unclear navigation should be avoided. Furthermore, you can improve your Shape texts like thisthat they are as scan-compatible as possible. For example, by using short paragraphs, highlighting relevant passages or using a narrow line width. The magic word is "graphic writing".

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