Is Your Web Content Being Read?

It is all very well writing lots of interesting stuff and placing it on your website, BUT, is it being read once it is found. Of course it has to be found first (and that means you have to make sure your site is deemed ‘good enough’ by the Search Engines – but that is as they say, another story).

First, check to see if your copy is being read.

Is your copy actually being read
Public Domain from pixabay

So, assuming that your site is getting visitors you then have to check if the copy is actually being read or not. You can get some idea from Google Analytics as you can see how long a viewer stays on a page, but what do you do if it is clear to see that they are not reading your words?

Users Scan – They Don’t Read

This means you have to try to capture their attention very quickly with the HEADLINES (just look at a Newspaper to see this in action) which also of course means leaving white space about so that the Headlines (and sub headlines) stand out.

White space is also important as it concentrates the viewers attention on the bits that aren’t white (again see some adverts in magazines that use this tactic), but perhaps it’s main strength is that it means that any person reaching a page is not presented with a ‘wall of text’, something that can be very off putting, unless of course they are REALLY REALLY interested / committed to reading up on the subject.

Combining Good Design With Good Copy

The problems start when you try to combine good design, have lots of words and keep Google happy, as the latter, whilst wanting users to have a ‘good experience’  are also saying they don’t approve of the use of ‘on demand user content‘ systems. This is commonly used system today (even with Google’s warnings) and is detailed in the article below.

Needless to say, the art of designing a page that ‘works’ and writing copy that is enticing to read, is not easy. However, at Rouge, we understand the principles and will be happy to discuss your needs.

In the meantime though, please enjoy the article!


Our research shows that only one in five people read web content word for word. Majority scan, skip and only read key items of interest.

We asked the group that doesn’t read full content for their reasons and this is what they said in order of popularity:-

  1. Too impatient (56%)
  2. Text too long to bother with (47%)
  3. Text not interesting enough (43%)
  4. Poor layout (38%)
  5. Text too difficult to read (18%)
  6. Didn’t trust the website (18%)

There’s your quick answer. Some of my readers will leave at this point and that’s fine because the rest of the content it is for those willing to dive deeper.

The Iceberg Model

So here’s a weird thing. This is a 400 word article that can also be 4000 words long. Being presented with everything at once can discourage reading so I only show the most important parts and let my readers carve a personalised path through available content by clicking on hypotext [+] ← click to expand for more information.

hypo ˈhʌɪpəʊ/ from Greek hupo ‘under’.

Hypotext is a way of revealing content on-demand. It acts like a traditional link, but it doesn’t interrupt user experience by sending readers to another page. Once clicked, the extra information is injected into a desired spot in the page, another click hides it away.

This aids user experience in several ways:

  • Supports easy scanning and better content overview by removing visual clutter.
  • Encourages content consumption through low word count in its skeletal form.
  • On-demand information retrieval enabled interactivity and personalisation.
  • In-line citations ad sources improve trust and credibility of content.
  • Users stay on the page they’re reading which minimises interruption.


This form of visual information compression enables users to gain the overall content allowing them to carve a personalised path through various bits of information.


Journalists on average tend to write in a more web-friendly way than most other online publishers. There are many great examples [+] out there but their format still appears limited by static medium principles (press).

One of my favourites is “Early morning is actually the worst time to drink coffee” article by Kia Kokalitcheva from Fortune. Her article is only 240 words which means that even a busy “scanner” like myself might make it to the end of the article. Kia gives the answer right in the beginning of the article and supplies her readers with background information in form of hyperlinks.

I’ve also seen experiments which combine inverted pyramid model with narrative. One example is “Health experts have figured out how much time you should sit each day” by Brigid Schulte from The Washington Post. Her piece is 1355 words long, more than most people are willing to read. Brigid does give the answer in the first paragraph, but the rest of the article continues without much structure making it hard to ascertain what value the remainder of the text holds for the reader. My guess is that this hybrid content model serves both types of readers, those who are in just for the quick answer and those who may be bored on the train looking to kill five minutes.

In response I created a modified version of Inverted Pyramid [+] in hope to align user experience with user expectations by looking at the web for what it is – a dynamic medium.

The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used by journalists and other writers to illustrate how information should be prioritized and structured in a text (e.g., a news report). It is a common method for writing news stories (and has adaptability to other kinds of texts, e.g., blogs and editorial columns). This is the best way to understand the basics about a news report. It is widely taught to mass communication and journalism students, and is systematically used in Anglophone media.


It’s not them it’s us

How we write isn’t compatible with how we read on the web.

What’s amazing about our findings is that they’re identical to those published by Nielsen [+] back in 1997. Basically, how we write isn’t compatible with how we read on the web and we haven’t done anything about it in nearly two decades. I don’t know about you but I see a great opportunity here.

The first stage of content consumption research took place in April 2015 and it included five hundred Australian Android users who were asked how they read online. Only 15.9% of our respondents tend to read content in full.


For the rest of this very interesting article on web content please click the link