“Why Is My Bounce Rate So High?” “Why Are Users Not Spending Time On My Site?”
These two questions are said by many a site owner. Who can blame them? You spend tremendous amounts of time researching a topic, crafting your content, and only for visitors to say “meh” from the metrics you observe.
I’ll tell you a dirty little secret about Internet users, and how you can improve the apathy.
Users Do Not Read – Users Scan
Seems obvious enough, but what does it mean?
It means that visitors will not invest the time to read every word on the page unless they are truly committed, which most visitors are not.
And it’s not an opinion – there are countless studies done with eye tracking that prove this. One of the most famous comes from the Neilsen Norman Group, and here is a summary:
Each page has to compete with hundreds of millions of other pages for the user’s attention . Users don’t know whether this page is the one they need or whether some other page would be better: they are not willing to commit the investment of reading the page in the hope that it will be good. Most pages are in fact not worth the users’ time, so experience encourages them to rely on information foraging. Instead of spending a lot of time on a single page, users move between many pages and try to pick the most tasty segments of each.
The Key Is Tasty Segments
That’s a great term, “tasty segments”. Consider the two following pages you coult land on:
The left page has the same text, but also rich media such as images, and topical headers. On the right, we have the same page minus those elements – a very bland, very-text heavy page. The right page screams “boring” and “skip me” while the left says “tasty segments”.
Helping Users Who Scan Content
The good news is that you can help out your users.
- Understand how to write content for the web. I’ve assembled a list of 7 fantastic tips that show you how to make your content work harder for you and entice people to stay longer.
- Include Visual Breaks. Examples such as a Call-To-Action, or including topical photography and screenshots will help apply visual appeal to a text-only page.
- Life is hectic, so get to the point. Many times people can’t afford to spend hours reading pages across a multitude of sites to find the information they want. With distractions such as emails, calls, texts and IM’s, be smart about your visitor’s time and make it easy to scan.