Posted by randfish

This short post looks at a Jakob Nielsen alertbox column entitled, How Little Do Users Read? Why a short post? Well, it would appear that we don’t read long posts, so why bother?

Nielsen examines a study from the University of Hamburg on Web Usage, specifically content consumption, and finds some interesting data.

Duration of Visit Scatterplot

That groovy graph tells us that as you increase the amount of text on a page, visit time does not proportionally increase. This means that either people read faster when they have more to read, or, (in a more likely scenario), thy skim or skip text when there’s a lot of it.

Percent of Words Read Scatterplot

This next spiffy scatterplot tells us that if you want a majority of users to read all your content, try to make pages with fewer than 100 words (I know… It’s a challenge).

What can I say? Brevity is a virtue. Maybe the 140 character count Twitter limit really is the future of information consumption. May the heavens have mercy.

p.s. In case you can’t feel my sarcasm seeping through, let me just say that while I respect the study’s results, I wouldn’t suggest applying the strategy suggested too heavily to true "content" pages. News articles, blog posts, white papers, research articles and their ilk should be as long as they need to be and no longer. Attempting to curtail your content won’t have particularly positive SEO impacts, particularly if you apply it in the wrong areas.

p.p.s. So where should you apply this knowledge? In areas of your site that aren’t "telling a story" or created for intrigued, invested information consumers. Places like landing pages, navigation pages, homepages and pages meant to provide access to information, products or actions. Good examples? Support, registration and FAQ pages – go easy on the reader here. They want a solution, not a diatribe.

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