Have you heard about “skimming the page”? Here’s why readers don’t read your content and how to fix it?

04 March, 2017

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Here’s a stunning discovery made by Jakob Nielsen of Nielsen Norman Group. They discovered that when a visitor visits a website, he/she has time for only 28% of the content that is being written.

This is something extra-ordinary when many bloggers around the world are writing more than 2000 words to get attention of their readers.

But why this happens? Let’s investigate.

Why readers don’t read 72% of content that is written on the web?

While investigating, we found several factors which may be responsible for “skimming the page”. Here are the most interesting ones –

  • Declining attention span: Do you know the average attention span of a Goldfish? It is 9 seconds. And now the most peculiar thing about humans! Do you know what is the average attention span of humans? Mere 8 seconds. In a research, it is being proven that human beings are not able to concentrate on a single thing for more than 8 seconds. They either switch or lose interest.

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(Image source: http://mindfulmooves.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/our-average-attention-span.jpg )

  • Information overload: Research reveals that this is the age of excessive information which we can’t possibly consume in our already busy lives. So we need to make a choice. Either we skim through the pages or read which we think are more important than others.
  • Instant gratification: In a research done recently, it’s being said that human beings are wired for instant gratification. For example, if a group of people are being given a sweet candy right away and ten sweet candies one hour later; most humans would choose one sweet candy right away. Similarly, when it’s time to read the content, people seem to want instant rewards (accomplishment of reading a whole article in 2-3 minutes) instead of getting involved in most arduous effort of reading it in full (which might take 10-15 minutes).
  • So many things demanding our attention: We live in a world of notification. We just nod our head and there are thousands of notifications demanding our attention. And even if we want to concentrate on a single thing, we are not able to do that as another thing is popping up within moments. So reading a book is easy as we don’t carry “pop-ups” in a paperback; but when we read on mobile device or laptop or tab, we are bombarded by so many things that we really can’t help our habit of constant switching.

So you can see that if you content is too long and too boring, people won’t read it. You can blame their poor reading habits or the banes of technology, but nothing will change that way. We need to fix this and here are ways you can do so.

How to fix “skimming the page” syndrome?

You can’t write a 400 word post and expect to get traction. No (except you are Seth Godin or Richard Branson). You need to write long, informative post and stick to the same model of delivering content. But you have to change certain aspect of your content. Here’s what you need to do to make your audience read your stuff

 

  • Investigate how people read on website: If you notice, people read incredibly fast when they read on website. Most of your audience read in an F-pattern. First, the read the headline, then the first paragraph. And then they only read the left hand side and they just skim the right hand side’s content. Have a look at the pattern below –

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(Image source: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/f-shaped-pattern-reading-web-content/ )

  • Consider applying the information in your blog: From the research, it is being found that most readers don’t finish reading the whole content even if it’s just 1000 word long. Only 10%-20% of people finish reading the whole content and read everything in a blog post or on a web page. So here’s what you should do –
  • Have a clean background: People tend to read more when you have more white space than content. So if you are writing a 2000 word post, give enough breathing room for their eyes.
  • Increase fonts: Enhanced font increases readability. So if the words you write in in bigger font, people will tend to read more.
  • Halt them time to time: As eyes tend to skim, give them an interesting thing in between so that they can pause and think. It can be an idea in a box, an interesting and relevant factual drawing, a “click to tweet” or a short video.
  • Read in chunks: Let them read in chunks. If you have a paragraph that has too many sentences, split them up in two to three. That will help to increase readability.
  • Write in “inverted pyramid” form:This is an interesting thing most top bloggers are doing. As it is being seen that most people read only the beginning part of the blog with all of their attention. Write interesting stuff in the beginning. In the middle, add on some additional information which they can afford to miss out. And at the end just be nice and restate your point once again.

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(Image source: https://journalistjan.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/invertedpyramid3.gif)

 

After doing all of these, you would get reasonable success. And as you go along, test whatever works for you and whatever doesn’t and implement accordingly.

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