No, They Don’t Read

It’s clear that a lot of people don’t actually read web pages before they respond to them. They’ll do things like…

  • Contact someone with a similar name, even when it’s clearly the wrong sort of organization — say, a student writing club and not the bookseller that’s been causing them problems.
  • Ask a blogger for a job application for a company mentioned in the post.
  • Ask unrelated tech support questions on a blog post because they used the wrong search terms for their problem.
  • Ask for help creating Flash animations on a forum dedicated to the Flash super-hero, then get indignant when people have the gall to point out that they’re in the wrong place.

Now, usability guru Jakob Nielsen reports on a study showing just how much people don’t read. In the average visit, users only read 28% of your text if you’re lucky. You have to drop way down — to 111 words — just to count on visitors reading half of it.

Depressing, but it explains so much. And it suggests there’s a benefit to highlighting key phrases. If they’re only going to read ¼ of the text, you may as well make sure it includes the important stuff.

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