It’s not surprising that the first paragraph on a web page is the one part that gets read the most. And that’s not just because the Internet has done away with whatever little attention span we have left. There’s more to it than the fact that we’ve gotten used to 140 bite-sized nuggets of information.

According to a study by Jakob Nielsen, when we read a page, our eye automatically traces the text in an F-shape. The first paragraph is the one read in its entirety, as we trace the first long line of the ‘F.’ The next paragraph doesn’t fare as well, getting only half that much attention as we track about mid-way through the paragraph, tracing the second short line of the ‘F.’ The last step is simply to skim down the rest of the article, vertically.

If Nielsen’s study is anything to go by, I’ve pretty much maxed out any attention I’m going to get from you. It doesn’t really matter what I write from this point on, unless you’re absolutely fascinated by what I’m saying.

According to Nielsen, the F stands for Fast, and anything important you have to say, get it said in the first two paragraphs, since the rest of the post will be skimmed at best.

In the image below, you can see where readers tend focus on a web page. The red sections represent the areas where readers look the most, followed in order by the yellow, blue and lastly grey areas, which didn’t attract any attention at all. In each example, the F-shape can be made out.

FShape People Read Web Pages in an F Shaped Pattern

What’s interesting is that whether it’s an entire page or just a specific paragraph of text the “F shape” holds true. The red sections go beyond the paragraph in some of the screenshots, extending to text that is aligned with that first paragraph. That might have something to do with why most websites place their log-in or register buttons in that exact spot – at the top right-hand corner of the page – because the eye automatically gravitates there.

Have you noticed your own reading pattern when reading text or web pages online? Let us know about it in the comments.

Credit for the title goes to this Hacker News Reader.