Writing for the Web: Give an ‘F’ about subheads

The F-shape reading pattern is common among consumers of online content. Here’s how to keep those eyeballs moving down the page—and coming back to you for more.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

The letter “F” isn’t just for four-letter words. It’s also a pattern you use to read online content. According to eye-tracking researchers like Jakob Nielsen, people scan Web pages as two horizontal stripes—that is, the headline and first paragraph—and then a vertical stripe, the content that travels down the left-hand side of the page.

So what does this mean to you?

Most page visitors won’t read past your first few words. They need to make a snap decision, to figure out whether your content is worthy of their undivided attention. Your job is to make that decision-making process easy.

Here’s how…

Scanners love subheads

Think about that F-shaped pattern: After a person has read the headline and perhaps the first paragraph, they will scan further down the page. They are looking for content that compels them to continue reading. That’s why subheads are so great.

Subheads can grab the reader’s interest in a matter of seconds by:

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.