We put a lot of effort into creating great legal content. We strive to make sure that it’s informative, engaging, interesting, educational and valuable to our audience. But have you ever stopped think about how your visitors read your legal content?
Nielson Norman Group have performed multiple studies on this topic including eye-tracking visualizations and how people digest content. Here is a summary of their findings so you’ll know which approach to take to increase reader engagement.
The F-Shaped Pattern
By using eye-tracking tools, Nielson Norman Group was able to generate heat maps that show us visually how people read content and which areas they primarily focus on. Here is an example:
You can clearly see that readers start at the top and work their way downward forming an F-shaped pattern. This consists of two horizontal stripes and one vertical stripe. But what does this mean in terms of writing legal content?
It means that people will rarely read through an entire piece of content. Instead, they will scan through it and focus their attention on a few key areas of interest. If you tailor your content to this pattern, you should be able to increase engagement and keep your visitors happy.
Tips and Tricks
Now that we have a basic understanding of the F-shaped pattern, there are a few techniques you can use to capitalize on this tendency. First of all, it’s vital that you start off with a captivating introduction. In fact, your first two paragraphs should get right to the point and be interesting enough to grab your reader’s attention right away. If these are lackluster, they’re unlikely to make it through the rest of your content.
Second, it’s important to use sub-headers so that the information can be easily scanned. Research has even found that “79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.”
If you’re using a massive wall of text, this can result in a “cognitive overload” where readers are required to expend an immense amount of mental energy to digest your content.
The bottom line is that few people are willing to read content in its entirety and will simply leave your site if it can’t be easily scanned. But if you break it down in a logical sequence that highlights main ideas via sub-headers and bullet points, readers should stick around for longer.
When it comes to paragraphs, it’s crucial that each one contains only a single idea. Generally speaking, people like plenty of white space because it’s easier on their eyes, so it’s recommended to keep paragraphs at a maximum of four sentences in length. However, one to three sentences per paragraph is ideal.
By understanding some fundamental habits of your audience and knowing how visitors read your legal content, you can optimize it in a way that’s more user-friendly. In turn, this should improve the odds that they’ll check out more content and stay on your website longer. Over the long run, this can have a positive impact on your conversion rates.