How people actually read
While most copywriters like to imagine that every word they craft, every sentence they agonize over, will be read in great detail by their audience, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
For the most part, people don’t read that way. They skim.
And while focusing is something we’ve become worse at in recent years (our attention span has shortened to a mere 8 seconds), research has shown that we’ve been skimming for a long time.
What he found was that the sections of the page with the most ink attracted the most attention. Readers glanced to images and headlines first, then at brief, bolded text like subheaders, captions, and bulleted lists. Block text and long copy were digested last.
A decade later, a Poynter Institute study reinforced the dean’s original findings. Drs. Mario Garcia and Pegie Stark Adam found:
- Most people entered a page through the biggest illustration, then looked to big headlines, then captions, and lastly, block text.
- The parts of the page viewed the longest were photos, followed by headlines and advertisements, then bullets and captions. Readers spent the least amount of time reading long copy.
More recently, in 2013, Charbeat teamed up with Slate Magazine to find out how much content we read online.