Anyone with a background in layout and design or marketing knows that there’s psychology behind the visual appearance of print or digital materials.
Why do viewers find certain images or layouts more appealing? Why do certain visual configurations compel desired actions while others fall flat?
These days, guess and check for visual layouts has become a lot easier. This is thanks to the ease of A/B or multivariate testing in the online arena. Now you can try out a variety of layouts to see which ones viewers find most appealing.
However, it’s important to understand how our brains scan and interpret visual information. Thus, it becomes much easier to select layouts that are not only appealing.
Additionally, it delivers pertinent information first. Then, it helps you to increase engagement with content.
Also, it assists with the amount of time visitors spend viewing your pages. This is where the F pattern comes in.
What is the F pattern of website design? How does it relate to web design? How can you use it to your benefit when creating attractive and compelling web pages?
Here’s what every website owner should know.
What is the F Pattern?
It has to do with the way our eyes receive information. It’s also the way our brains are trained to scan and interpret visual data. Interestingly, this can vary by culture.
For example, some cultures have languages that read from right to left, or top to bottom. This naturally affects the way they scan written content.
English reads left to right. Therefore, it’s only natural that, when confronted by written text, our brains learn to scan each line from left to right.
We start at the top of the page, working our way down. This is the basic concept of the F pattern in website design, or the F-Layout, as it is also referred to.
The way our eyes scan content basically forms the shape of a capital letter F. We read a line of text from right to left. This constitutes the horizontal top line of the F.
Next, our eyes return to the left-hand side of the page and move down. This forms the vertical side of the F. Finally, we continue reading left to right, forming the next horizontal line of the F, and so on.
The pattern seems obvious. Yet, it didn’t become completely clear until data from eye-tracking studies was put into heat maps and the F pattern emerged.
Our eyes scan left to right and then move down, seeking the next pertinent piece of information. This could be on the next line or at the beginning of the next paragraph, for example.
We are trained to expect that the first line of any paragraph pertains to the remaining content of that paragraph. Thus, we can quickly scan entire pages to find the information we seek.
This is how the F pattern emerges.
What Does This Mean for Web Design?
When you understand how viewers consume visual data, you can begin to tailor your content for optimal viewing.
In other words, the F pattern can help you to prioritize content within your layout. This helps achieve specific goals.
In print, it is a well-known fact that the most important information goes “above the fold”. That means the upper half of the newspaper that is seen first by viewers.
The same basic principle applies to web design. The most important information should go at the top of the page.
Your first and second paragraphs need to pack a punch. They must ensure that viewers receive the most relevant information first. Additionally, they need to encourage viewers to keep reading.
The F pattern takes this a step further, though. You really need to grab attention with the first line of each paragraph. This is the part viewers will scan in search of relevant data.
How can you make these key lines more appealing? The content of your text is important. Yet, so is the visual aspect.
That’s why you should include attention-grabbing visual elements. These include things such as bold text, italics, highlighting, or anything that draws the eye.
In addition, it may help to cover a key concept in the first line of a paragraph. Then, sum up the rest of the paragraph.
Use bullet points or other information that is easier to scan than a body of text. Pair a bold header with concise bullet points. This could be especially engaging on a visual level.
Don’t forget, though, that your right sidebar is also an important element. It often houses paid advertisements or links to other, related content.
It is part of your visual layout. Therefore, it should be considered when creating your F pattern design.
The sidebar will receive attention when a reader reaches the end of a vertical line. You know that readers are most likely to scan the first sentence of any paragraph.
Therefore, it’s wise to create a hierarchy of sidebar content that conforms to this dynamic. Your most important sidebar content should appear at the end of the first line of the first paragraph.
The second most important content should appear not immediately below. Instead, it should be at the end of the first line of the second paragraph.
You’re ready to place ads, links, or CTAs on the sidebar. Thus, understanding the F pattern can help you determine optimal placement. Plus, it will help you achieve the best possible results.
F Pattern Benefits
There is only one real problem with using the F pattern on every page. It can start to feel formulaic, and frankly, a little stale.
However, knowing this gives you the opportunity to mix up your visual elements. In doing so, you’ll create pages that are unique. You won’t stray too far from the tried and true formula.
When you utilize the F pattern appropriately, viewers can more easily obtain the information they seek. Plus, you can see the results you crave.
The F pattern gives you the opportunity to present information in the most appealing way. It ensures that viewers see everything you want them to.
By now, you understand how the human eye sees visual data and how the brain interprets it. In turn, you’ll have the best chance of catering to user needs while achieving your own messaging goals.
If you have a comment about topic or suggestions about future topics leave them in the comment box below.
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