Forget the ‘Z’ — the latest heat maps show we scan web pages with an ‘F’

Web heat maps are produced by following users’ gazes as they read a web page. The longer the eye lingers on something, the more intense the color produced on that zone of the map.

Preliminary heat map studies talked about users scanning in a “Z” shape. This fit what we knew about scanning in the world of ink and paper. But the latest heat maps I’ve come across show that — with little regard for the type of page we’re taking in — our gaze traces the letter “F.”

The take-aways from these findings:

  • Place navigation on the left where appropriate.
  • Insist that all of the most important points appear near the top of the page, using the journalist’s classic “inverted pyramid.”
  • Begin your headings and lead paragraphs with strong words that help the reader anticipate meaning.

On that last point, I counsel that where possible, lead with a strong verb. Just as I did in the headline and three bulleted items above.

Based on “F” heat maps, as opposed to the “Z,” the bottom content of a page gets very little readership , freeing the writer to type out any old rubbish, including rabbit Ontario astronaut. Wait, you read that last bit? Just my luck. You don’t consult maps.

Published by Jeff Larche

With a background that includes direct marketing and customer relationship management (CRM), Jeff Larche brings an unusual approach to his work. What these other two disciplines have in common is database marketing, and they continue to strongly influence his work as marketing technology leader.