Solveita logo
People Don't Read, They Scan: Crafting Digestable Content

People Don't Read, They Scan: Crafting Digestable Content

Duane Chetcuti avatar

Duane Chetcuti

August 26, 2023

In a world overrun by information, our attention spans are dwindling. The average person now spends just 37 seconds reading an article or blog post. It's not a lack of interest; it's the survival strategy of our digital age. The rise of information overload has birthed a new norm: scanning.

The solution is to understand how people interact with online content and crafting scannable content. This isn't about dumbing down information or sacrificing substance. It's about respecting your audience's time and cognitive resources by delivering value quickly. Scannable content is a strategy that integrates psychology, design, and communication.

Make it simple.
Make it memorable.
Make it inviting to look at.
Make it fun to read.

Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett

Advertising, Chicago

This article explores user behavior, reading habits, and attention spans in the digital age. As the online landscape continues to evolve, grasping these concepts is essential for crafting effective strategies in software development, design, and marketing that resonate with today's audiences.

The Rise of Information Overload

The rise of information overload in the digital space

In today's digital era, the amount of information available to us has grown exponentially. This flood of data, while offering unprecedented access to knowledge and entertainment, has presented a new challenge: information overload. As the digital realm expands, the sheer volume of content competing for attention has become overwhelming.

To cope with this information overload, people are adapting their consumption habits. The traditional practice of reading long-form content from start to finish is becoming rare. Instead, people are shifting towards a more streamlined approach: scanning. This shift is a strategic response to the abundance of content available.

The Evolving Online Content Landscape and Its Impact

The proliferation of blogs, news sites, social media, and online sources has led to a content explosion. With millions of articles, posts, videos, and images published daily, users face the challenge of finding relevant information amidst the noise. Scanning has emerged as an effective coping mechanism in response to information overload.

Understanding the Significance of User Behavior

For professionals in software development, design, and marketing, understanding user behavior is crucial. Creating digital experiences that connect with modern audiences requires more than just quality content—it demands an understanding of how that content will be consumed. With attention spans shortening and the demand for instant gratification increasing, capturing and retaining a user's attention quickly is a valuable skill.

On average, users only read 20-28% of the words on a webpage.

To thrive in this competitive digital landscape, professionals must adapt their strategies to align with the realities of how people engage with content.

The Attention Economy

The attention economy

The modern digital landscape is a competitive marketplace for attention. With numerous stimuli competing for our limited cognitive resources, users have developed the ability to quickly assess content and decide its value. Scanning serves as a survival strategy in this attention-driven economy.

In a world of options, reading every piece of content fully is a luxury. Scanning enables users to efficiently extract key takeaways and make informed decisions about further engagement. This shift isn't about a decline in reading ability; it's a strategic adaptation to the demands of the digital age.

55% of pageviews get less than 15 seconds of attention, highlighting the challenge of capturing user interest.

Understanding User Behavior: The Psychology of Scanning and Reading Patterns

Understanding the reasons behind scanning behavior involves delving into cognitive intricacies.

Confirmation Bias: The tendency to seek information that confirms our existing beliefs

The Paradox of Choice: The idea that too many options can lead to decision paralysis

Cognitive Efficiency: Our brains are wired to conserve energy. When confronted with a deluge of information, they instinctively seek shortcuts. Scanning allows users to quickly assess whether a piece of content holds promise, enabling them to allocate their cognitive resources judiciously.

Relevance Recognition: The brain excels at pattern recognition. Users' eyes dart across headlines, subheadings, and visuals—areas where meaningful information often resides. In a matter of seconds, they form a mental map of content's hierarchy, determining its potential value.

The F-Pattern: Unveiling Reading Habits

How people read: F-Pattern

Users tend to scan webpages in an F-shaped pattern.

The F-pattern mimics the motion of reading a book. Users start at the top and read horizontally, forming the upper bar of the "F." Then, they move down slightly and read another horizontal line, creating the second bar. This is followed by a quick vertical movement, constituting the stem of the "F." It's commonly observed when users engage with text-heavy content, like articles or documents.

Implications: Recognizing the F-pattern guides content creators in placing critical information along this trajectory. Crafting compelling headlines, encapsulating main points in subheadings, and positioning key visuals in the reading flow can significantly enhance engagement.

The Z-Pattern: Navigating Visually Rich Content

How people read: Z-Pattern

The Z-pattern emerges with visually-rich content. Their gaze starts at the top-left corner, moving diagonally across to the top right—forming the first leg of the "Z." Then, their eyes traverse horizontally to the left, constituting the second leg. Finally, a diagonal movement to the bottom right concludes the pattern. This is common in web pages, ads, and image-centric platforms.

Significance: Understanding the Z-pattern empowers content creators to strategically position information. Placing compelling visuals at the start, incorporating key points along the horizontal movement, and concluding with a call to action aligns with users' natural gaze, enhancing the likelihood of content absorption.

Crafting Scannable Content: The Art of Engaging Scanners

Crafting scannable content: the art of engaging scanners

Capturing and retaining attention is a significant challenge. Users now scan content swiftly, seeking value in seconds. This chapter reveals strategies for content creators to craft material that resonates with scanners, ensuring their message isn't lost in the blink of an eye.

Writing for the Scanner's Mind

Users spend an average of 5.59 seconds looking at a website's written content.

Scanners are hunters, seeking snippets of information to determine a content piece's worth. Adapting your writing style to cater to this instinctual behavior is key.

Clear and Concise Language: Use straightforward language that conveys your point succinctly. Eliminate verbosity that could deter scanners from extracting the essence.

Compelling Headlines: Your content's first impression, headlines are the most important part of an article, with 8 out of 10 people only reading the headline. Craft it as a gateway, providing a glimpse of what's to come. Make it punchy, intriguing, and aligned with the audience's interests.

Techniques for Succinct Communication

The scanner's attention span is brief. Effective techniques ensure your content delivers maximum impact with minimal words.

Bite-sized Paragraphs: Break content into small, digestible paragraphs. Each should encapsulate a single idea, making it easy for scanners to grasp.

Informative Subheadings: Subheadings act as signposts, guiding scanners through your content's flow. They offer a snapshot of what follows, helping users determine whether to delve deeper.

Bullet Points and Lists: Condense information into bullet points or numbered lists. These structures emphasize key takeaways, making them effortlessly scannable.

**Visual Aids: Images, infographics, and charts can convey complex ideas swiftly, appealing to visual learners.

Strategic Formatting: Bold and italicize important phrases. Use larger fonts for headings. Formatting draws attention to critical information, aiding scanners in navigating content.

Finding the Balance

Scannable content isn't about sacrificing substance for brevity. It's about presenting information in a manner that respects the scanner's time while delivering value.

Depth Within Brevity: Achieve a balance between brevity and depth. Craft each sentence to convey as much as possible while maintaining clarity.

Engagement through Relevance: Keep the reader's perspective in mind. Tailor your content to answer their immediate questions and address their concerns.

By adapting your writing style and mastering techniques for succinct communication, you can create content that effortlessly captures attention, engages scanners, and delivers value in an instant.

Creating Engaging Introductions: Hooks and Teasers

Creating engaging introductions: hooks and teasers

In the fast-paced digital world, first impressions matter. This chapter explores the art of crafting introductions that grab readers' attention and entice further exploration.

Captivating with Compelling Intros

The Hook: Begin with a captivating hook—an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a thought-provoking statement. Hooks grab attention and spark curiosity.

Anecdotes and Stories: Start with a brief anecdote or story that relates to your content. Personal experiences or relatable tales draw readers in emotionally.

The Power of Teasers

Offer a Glimpse: Give readers a taste of what's to come. A teaser sentence or two can hint at the value your content provides, promising a rewarding read.

Highlight Main Points: Outline the main points you'll cover in your content. This not only piques curiosity but also sets expectations.

Inviting Readers to Explore

Engaging introductions keep readers from scrolling past. Beginning with an attention-grabbing hook and offering a glimpse invites readers on a journey of discovery.

Maximizing Readability: Designing for Effortless Engagement

Maximizing readability: Designing for effortless engagement

Maximizing readability isn't just about aesthetics—it's about ensuring your audience can consume your content effortlessly.

Crafting a seamless reading experience involves fonts, colors, formatting, and layout.

By taking care of the visual aspect, you invite your audience to immerse themselves fully in your message.

The Power of Font Selection

Optimal Typeface: Choose a font that's easy on the eyes. Sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica are popular for digital content due to their clean lines and simplicity.

Adapting Font Sizes and Styles: Vary font sizes to guide readers through your content. Use larger fonts for headings and subheadings, making it clear what each section is about. Employ bold or italics to emphasize key points, aiding scanners.

The Dance of Colors: Backgrounds and Foregrounds

Foreground and Background Harmony: Contrast between text and background is crucial. Dark text on a light background or vice versa ensures readability. Avoid high-contrast color combinations that strain the eyes.

Dark Mode Considerations: With the rise of dark mode settings, accommodate readers by ensuring your content is legible on dark backgrounds. Use lighter shades for text and accents to maintain contrast.

Optimizing Reading Conditions

Light Reading Conditions: When readers are in well-lit environments, aim for a higher contrast between text and background. Crisp, dark text on a light background enhances readability.

Dark Reading Conditions: In dimly lit settings, such as reading before bed, opt for a softer contrast to reduce eye strain. Light text on a dark background can be more comfortable for extended reading in the dark.

Controlling the Reading Zone

Optimal Line Length: Enforce a width on the reading area to prevent lines from becoming too long. Excessively long lines can make reading uncomfortable, as the eyes have to traverse vast distances.

Line Spacing and Margins: Use sufficient line spacing and margins to give content room to breathe. This prevents text from feeling cramped and enhances overall readability.

Enhancing Content Structure: Building Blocks of Impactful Communication

Enhancing content structure: building blocks of impactful communication

Structuring content is akin to building a bridge—each component plays a vital role in guiding the reader from start to finish.

By breaking content into scannable sections, leveraging formatting tools, and strategically placing essential information, you create a roadmap that transforms reading into an engaging, efficient, and impactful experience.

Building Scannable Sections

Chunking Content: Divide your content into smaller, digestible sections. Each section should address a specific point or idea, making it easier for readers to grasp.

Readability vs. Density: Strike a balance between substance and brevity. Ensure that each section conveys meaningful information without overwhelming the reader.

The Power of Formatting

Headings and Subheadings: Utilize informative headings and subheadings to guide readers through your content's flow. These signposts provide context and make navigation effortless.

Bullet Points and Lists: Convey key information succinctly using bullet points and lists. They emphasize takeaways and prevent information overload.

Visual Breaks: Incorporate visuals, images, or infographics to provide visual breaks and reinforce your points.

Placing Key Information Strategically

Above the Fold: Position critical information at the beginning of your content. This ensures that readers immediately encounter valuable insights, enticing them to continue.

Mid-Content Highlights: Reinforce key points within the content's body. Use subheadings, visuals, or formatting to draw attention to vital information.

Closing Impact: Conclude each section with impactful insights. Leaving readers with a thought-provoking takeaway encourages engagement.

Visual Enhancements: Illuminating Content with Imagery

Visual enhancements: Illuminating content with imagery

People are more likely to engage with content that is visually appealing. This chapter explores the role of images in enhancing content, engaging readers, and conveying messages with impact.

Painting with Pictures: The Art of Integration

Enhanced Comprehension: Images aren't just adornments; they're tools for comprehension. Complex concepts find clarity through visuals, aiding readers in grasping intricate ideas swiftly. This is particularly important considering that 65% of people are visual learners.

Aligning with Content: Choose images that resonate with your content's essence. Whether they clarify a concept or evoke an emotion, visuals should amplify your message.

Visual Rhythm: Breaking and Guiding

Breaking Textual Monotony: Images break up text-heavy sections, providing visual breaks that prevent reader fatigue.

Guiding the Reader: Use images strategically to lead readers through your content. A well-placed image can draw attention to a critical point, guiding the reader's gaze.

Emotion in Every Pixel

Eliciting Emotions: Images aren't limited to conveying information; they also evoke feelings and amplify your word.

Visual Consistency: Ensure your chosen visuals align with your content's tone. Images should reinforce the emotions your words convey.

The Dynamic Duo: Images and Videos

Engagement Amplification: Videos offer dynamic engagement. Incorporating videos for demonstrations or explanations adds depth to your content.

Seamless Integration: Blend images and videos organically. Videos can elaborate on a point, while images offer a snapshot of what's to come.

Designing for Scannability: Crafting Interfaces for Intuitive Navigation

Designing for scannability: Crafting interfaces for intuitive navigation

Integrating scanning principles into your web and app layouts is a game-changer. This involves creating interfaces that guide users seamlessly, improving user experience.

Streamlined Visuals: Use a clear visual hierarchy with headings, subheadings, and buttons. Just as they scan content for key points, users should scan your interface for essential features.

Intuitive Grouping: Group related elements logically, aiding users in navigating without confusion.

Content's Impact on Marketing: Catching Attention in a Glance

Compelling Headlines: In the realm of marketing, headlines are hooks. Craft attention-grabbing headlines that instantly convey your message's value, enticing users to delve deeper. Did you know that headlines with numbers are 36% more likely to be clicked than headlines without numbers?

Value Proposition: Highlight the value users will gain. Just as scannable content promises quick takeaways, your message should convey immediate benefits.

Email Campaigns: Design emails with scannable elements—clear headings, succinct content, and strategically placed visuals. Email recipients, like content scanners, make rapid decisions.

SEO and Content Scannability: Finding the Perfect Balance

Harmonizing SEO and Scannability: Optimize content for search engines without sacrificing readability. Balance keyword integration with maintaining scannability for user appeal.

Strategic Keywords: Seamlessly integrate keywords into your content and headings.

Optimized Meta Tags: Craft meta titles and descriptions. These concise previews engage users much like scannable content does.

People are more likely to share content that is informative or entertaining.

Testing and Enhancing Scannability: A Journey of Iteration

Refining content is an ongoing journey.

A/B Testing: Experiment with different structures, formatting, and layouts through A/B testing to identify the most engaging approach.

User Feedback Loop: User insights are gold. Incorporate feedback to iteratively enhance scannability, ensuring content resonates with its intended audience.

Measuring User Engagement: Analytics Unveiling Scanning Patterns

Measuring user engagement: Analytics unveiling scanning patterns

Not all users are the same, in fact, mobile users are 2 times more likely to skim content than desktop users, but analytics are a trasure trove to understand your users.

Analytics Insights: Leverage analytics to understand user engagement and patterns. Data illuminates how users interact with your content, guiding improvements.

Heatmaps and Journey Recorders: These tools unveil user journeys and understands where users focus.

Continuous Refinement: Continoously adapt your content based on insights, and refine your design for optimal engagement.

Unlocking Success: Companies Thriving with Scannable Content

BuzzFeed's Listicles and Eye-Catching Headlines

BuzzFeed, a media company known for its viral content, pioneered the use of listicles and attention-grabbing headlines. They identified that their target audience often skimmed through content while looking for quick, entertaining information.

BuzzFeed embraced the power of scannable content by creating listicles (articles presented as lists) with catchy titles. They strategically used engaging images, GIFs, and bold typography to break up the text and keep users engaged. This approach allowed readers to quickly scan the article, absorbing the main points without committing to lengthy paragraphs.

BuzzFeed's scannable content format led to increased user engagement, higher click-through rates, and social media shares. Their articles became shareable, as readers could grasp the content's essence at a glance, making it more likely to be shared with their friends. This viral sharing contributed to BuzzFeed's rapid growth and established them as a leader in online media.

Amazon's Product Listings

Amazon, the e-commerce giant, recognized that customers often skim through product listings to find essential information like price, features, and reviews. They understood that presenting this information in a scannable format was crucial to making purchasing decisions.

Amazon designed product listings with clear and concise titles, bullet points highlighting key features, and a prominent "Add to Cart" button. They also introduced the "Amazon's Choice" badge to quickly indicate well-received products. Additionally, they allowed users to customize their search results, showing only the information they deemed important.

By prioritizing scannability, Amazon improved the user experience and streamlined the purchasing process. Shoppers could quickly assess if a product met their needs, leading to increased conversions and higher customer satisfaction. The scannable design contributed to Amazon's reputation as a user-centric platform.

HubSpot's Blogging Strategy

HubSpot, a marketing software company, recognized that their audience, which consists of marketers and business professionals, often had limited time to consume lengthy content. They aimed to create content that resonated with their busy audience.

HubSpot adopted scannable content practices by using descriptive subheadings, bulleted lists, and concise paragraphs. They also incorporated visuals like screenshots, infographics, and embedded videos to enhance understanding. Additionally, they used "Read More" links to allow users to dive deeper into sections that interested them.

HubSpot's scannable blog posts led to increased engagement, longer on-page time, and reduced bounce rates. Their content resonated with time-constrained readers who appreciated the ability to quickly gather insights. This engagement contributed to HubSpot's thought leadership in the marketing industry and attracted more users to their platform.

Conclusion: The Imperative of Scannable Content

The imperative of scannable content

Business Relevance: Scannable content isn't a passing trend—it's a digital necessity. In a world saturated with information, businesses must prioritize scannability to capture and retain audience attention.

A Paradigm Shift: Understand that the way people consume content has evolved. Prioritize scanning behavior in your digital strategies to stay relevant.

Growing Readership: The impact of scannable content on readership growth is undeniable. Content that respects user time and cognitive resources garners increased engagement.

Digital Strategy Priority: Scanning behavior is a cornerstone of successful digital strategies. Understanding and implementing the right strategy is the key to content that captivates and converts.

Prioritizing Engagement: The Scannable Content Revolution

In an era where time is precious and choices are abundant, mastering scannable content is no longer a luxury—it's a necessity.

From the design of web layouts to the crafting of compelling headlines, from the delicate harmony of SEO and content to the continuous refinement through testing and analytics—every step contributes to this revolution.

Scannable Web Layouts: User interfaces must act as guiding beacons. Embrace clear visual hierarchies with headings, subheadings, and intuitive grouping. Users should seamlessly scan interfaces for essential features. Prioritize user experience by making navigation intuitive and engagement effortless.

Attention-Grabbing Headlines: The journey starts with headlines that are more than just words—they are hooks that capture attention. Craft headlines that instantly convey the value of your message, igniting curiosity and enticing users to delve further. Headlines with numbers are 36% more likely to be clicked. Such attention-grabbing techniques are your gateway to success in the digital realm.

Harmonizing SEO and Scannability: Striking a balance between search engine optimization and reader engagement is an art. Seamlessly integrate keywords into your content and headings while maintaining readability. Your content should be a harmonious symphony that resonates with both algorithms and human audiences. Craft concise meta titles and descriptions that provide enticing previews, much like the scannable content they represent.

Refining Through Testing and Analytics: The journey of scannable content is an iterative one. A/B testing becomes your ally as you experiment with different structures, formatting, and layouts. The insights derived from analytics become your compass, guiding you through user engagement and patterns. Heatmaps and recorders unveil the paths users take, helping you adapt your content for optimal engagement.

ClassHero managed to recover from a 48% drop in clickthrough rate by leveraging the Malta-based tool Hotjar to analyze their user recordings. Through this analysis, they identified that their onboarding process was overwhelming users with an excessive number of dropdown options, leading to usability difficulties.

Prioritizing Scannable Content: This revolution culminates in a fundamental shift in digital strategies. As attention becomes scarcer and choices more abundant, the focus must shift towards crafting scannable content that respects users' time and cognitive resources. Whether it's through captivating introductions, immersive visuals, or well-structured sections, scannable content becomes the cornerstone of captivating and converting modern audiences.

By embracing this revolution, you position yourself at the forefront of engagement strategies. Your journey towards prioritizing scannability is a transformative one that aligns with the evolving ways people consume information. As you infuse scanning principles into every layer of your digital landscape, you're not only adapting to the present but also shaping the future of effective communication.

Need our help?

Empower your business, with us.