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« Is Your Text the Right Color? | Main | Missed Opportunity and Online Strategy »

How Web Users Navigate and Read

On the web users have a certain way they navigate and view web pages.  The two most common ways users navigate web sites is either known-item searching or surfing.  When users are on your web site they don't read every word, users scan text.  Keep these facts in mind when creating your user's experience.

Known item searching involves a user looking for very specific information.  This is typical of a user that is doing research on a product or service, or looking to make a purchase.  The process involves use of search engine to find the companies that offer a certain service or product.  Chances are that when a user visits your site they are known item searching.

Surfing is most analogous with going through a web site or series of sites with no particular purpose.  The user might jump from topic to topic and visit a variety of different sites.  It is just like channel surfing on television or the radio.  When they find something that is of interest they might stay around or go elsewhere.  Users who surf tend to be the minority online.

After getting to your site users probably aren't going to read every word. They will most likely scan the text.  The user will pick out keywords and look at dominate elements on your page.  Known-item searching comes into play with this process.  The user wants to find information online quickly and painlessly.  You can assist the user by making your copy user friendly.

Online Copywriting Tips:
Writing for the Web, Kilian

  • Group your text in chunks, 100 words in a group
  • Orient users with headlines and subheads
  • Break down information into bulleted lists
  • Don't try to impress the user with your vocabulary
  • Use simple sentences: Subject + Verb
  • Organize information into a hierarchy, use navigation as supporting tool
  • Print out the page to proofread

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