Use eyetracking research in website copywriting

| November 11, 2009

Eyetracking research supports direct marketing-led website copy

They say you should never populate your website with copy you’ve used for offline and print projects. Quite right too. You’d be crazy to reproduce your corporate brochure online.

On the other hand, it’s silly to throw the baby out with the bath water. Eyetracking research proves a clear link between the order in which people read web copy and classic direct marketing principles.

Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice (useit.com) have recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of web pages. In the diagram, areas users looked at most are red. Yellow indicates fewer views.  The least viewed areas are blue. And grey areas didn’t attract any attention.

Users don’t read website text word by word as they do printed materials. They scan. We already knew that. But this typical F pattern gives copywriters and designers a deeper insight into writing and designing for the web. The picture’s clear:

  • your first two paragraphs should contain the most important information
  • it is good to make logical arguments in a logical order
  • remember that visitors will probably read more of the first paragraph than the second
  • break the copy into subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points so users are more likely to notice important points
  • don’t be whimsical. Use plain, strong, informative headers that people will notice when scanning
  • bear in mind they’ll read the first and second words in a line more often than the third
  • put all the information that isn’t vital to your sales message at the bottom
  • put your menu buttons in order of their importance to the sales process
  • include calls to action at the top and centre page, not just at the bottom
  • put a contact email link on every page so users don’t have to search for it

Hm. That smells very like direct marketing!

You wouldn’t just bung your direct mail campaign copy into a website. But many of the same principles apply. So check that your website copywriter understands direct marketing and has plenty of experience writing for DM.

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Category: copywriting and marketing

By Kate Goldstone - ()

Originally from Middlesbrough, I lived in Brighton for many years before moving to North Devon. I’ve had a passion for words all my life and this is my twelfth year as a freelance writer. In my spare time I draw, paint, sculpt, carve wood and rock, garden, read, write poetry and enjoy long distance hiking. I sing and play the recorder. I collect modernist paintings, vintage rugs and mid-century German art pottery. I’m a member of The Poetry Society. And I am an experienced volunteer shepherd, a ‘Lookerer’.

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