How do visitors read your web site? If your answer is, “like they read anything else,” you would be very wrong. The truth is you can have top drawer content but your plastic surgery web design fail due to answering this question wrong. The correct answer is this: people don’t read on the web, they scan.
An easy to follow web site is an important factor in visitor loyalty. And, an easy to follow site only comes from understanding how people scan web pages. There are two non-negotiables you must remember to make your plastic surgery web design scanable and therefore memorable.
Jakob Nielsen’s usability guides have become the gold standard for easy to read web pages. Eye tracking studies carried out by Nielsen demonstrate that visitors to your web site read content in what follows an F-shaped pattern. That means your visitors generally read from the upper left of the web page, and then skip to fix points further down the page and read to the left again. Some principles that are evident from this pattern of reading include:
- The first two paragraphs are most important on a web page. Most web visitors will read the first two paragraphs fairly closely before falling into scan mode. Therefore it is essential those few lines contain the most important information you want your visitors to know.
- Scanners don’t read a web page word by word; they extract what appear to be important paragraphs, sentences, and phrases.
- Sub headings, lists, and bullet points take advantage of the F-Pattern and alert a visitor’s eyes to places in the text where they need to focus.
- Carefully placed and limited use of titles, bolds, and italicized text are essential in communicating to scanners.
The Inverted Pyramid
Print journalists have long employed what is called the inverted pyramid format. A news article always begins with a catchy headline and an attention grabbing summary first paragraph. From there, a news article follows an inverted pyramid with the most important information at the top working down to the least important information at the bottom.
When considering your plastic surgery web design, always remember that pattern for most important to least important information. The obvious question you will have is, “what is most important in this web content?” Here again, we look back to print journalists to help determine what is most important in our web content. Almost all print journalists used what they called the eight news values as a guide to placing information in order of importance.
- News Value of Proximity – The physical or emotional closeness of information to your audience. Information that can be made personal by the reader is highly important.
- News Value of Currency – Cosmetic surgery information that is a hot topic of conversation on other plastic surgeons blogs and sites has currency. Again, it has great value as highlighted information.
- News Value of Timeliness – information that is needed now but will not be as powerful later.
- News Value of Conflict – not necessarily controversial but rather information that readers are likely to be emotionally invested in.
- News Value of Impact – information that is likely to affect a large group of visitors.
- News Value of Human Interest - typically considered soft news or feature-style stories.
- Odd or Unusual Components as a News Value
There are no hard rules as to what is important in the content you want to place on your web site but these serve as a good starting point. One thing is certain, visitors to your site do not read your content, no matter how good it is, like they would a magazine or book. Understanding how they scan information is the starting point to presenting content they are sure to remember.