People Skim, Not Read

Statistics today suggest that website visitors typically read only about 20% of the text on a page.

This can be attributed to several factors, including both the quality of the content and changing reading habits. Here are the main reasons:

Skimming Behavior:

Online readers tend to skim rather than read word-for-word. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, users scan pages for relevant information, often focusing on

  • headings,
  • subheadings,
  • bullet points,
  • and highlighted text.

This behavior is driven by the vast amount of information available online and the need to quickly determine the relevance of content.

Information Overload:

The sheer volume of information available on the internet means visitors have developed habits to quickly filter through content. This has led to a preference for scanning over in-depth reading, particularly when visitors are searching for specific information.

Content Quality:

The quality of content plays a significant role. Poorly written, unengaging, or irrelevant content can cause visitors to lose interest quickly. High-quality content that is well-structured and directly addresses the visitors’ needs can encourage more thorough reading.

Attention Span:

Studies suggest that the average attention span of site visitors has decreased over time. A report by Microsoft noted that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to about 8 seconds in 2013. This reduced attention span affects how site visitors interact with online content.

Mobile Usage:

The increasing use of mobile devices for browsing has changed reading habits. On smaller screens, visitors are even more likely to skim content rather than read in detail. This shift emphasizes the need for mobile-optimized content that is easy to scan.

Time Constraints:

Visitors often land on a site’s page with specific goals in mind and limited time to achieve them. This urgency prompts them to scan for the most relevant information quickly rather than reading everything in detail.

While these factors collectively contribute to the tendency of site visitors to read only a small portion of the text on a webpage, improving the quality, relevance, and presentation of content can help increase engagement and encourage visitors to read more.

Structuring content with clear headings, concise paragraphs, and visual aids can also enhance readability and retention.

The goal of a successful site developer is to find the balance between the information or message the client is trying to portray and and the limited attention span of the visitor. This balance must be achieved in a way that allows the intended message to be absorbed before the reader loses attention which as the statistics above suggest, will happen very quickly.

It is important the message be broken into short concise messages that can be skimmed by the reader.

Yet for the purposes of SEO it is equally important to keep the visitor on the page as long as possible.

Let Praise Worx find that balance for your site!

Engage the visitor with stunning images (eye candy),

attention grabbers,

and attention holders,

yet provide the information they were seeking that brought them to your site in the first place.