Average website’s content is partially read
User case studies show that only 20 to 28% of an average website’s content is being read by users.
Completely naturalistic surfing leads to partial reading
Users who partially read websites behaved completely naturalistic, that is, nothing special was asked of them and they didn’t have a specific task to do except to browse the internet naturally as they usually do.
Users were of higher intelligence
The study notes that users were of higher intelligence and had an academic background. However, the study dismissed this for being irrelevant because all internet users got smarter at using it regardless of their intelligence or academic background.
Clicking hypertext links is the 1st most popular feature
Additionally, the study revealed that clicking hypertext links is the 1st most popular feature users use on a website.
Clicking page buttons is the 2nd most popular feature
Additionally, the study revealed that clicking buttons on the page is the 2nd most popular feature users use.
Back button is the 3rd most popular feature
Additionally, the study revealed that the back button was the 3rd most popular feature. Its popularity somewhat faded with time but it’s still on the top of the most used browser features. Breaking the back button’s functionality is a critical mistake.
Some page views were omitted from the study for various reasons
10,163 page views that lasted less than 4 seconds were bounced right out without truly ‘using’ the page. 2,615 page views lasted more than 10 minutes, indicating inactivity. 1,558 page views were server errors.
45,237 page views were used
The study used 59,573 page views. Some of the page views were omitted and the final number was 45,237 page views.
Only pages with 30 to 1,250 words were tested
Users’ reading behavior was tested only for pages containing between 30 and 1,250 words. Pages with a bigger amount of words were probably academic papers or ‘Terms & Conditions’ type of pages. (See Why reading makes you sleepy?)
Users spend 4.4 seconds more for each 100 word
The study showed users spent an average of 4.4 seconds more for each 100 word on the page. The time was additionally spent looking at images and learning the website’s layout.
Amount of text read declined rapidly for each 100 word
Although each 100 word made users spend more time on the website, the actual amount of read texts declined rapidly as the word-count increased. On average, users read 20% to 28% of the words when they devoted all of their time to reading. (See Why is it so hard to read on a computer screen?)
The study was published in ACM Transactions on the Web
The study ‘Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use’ was published in the ACM Transactions on the Web in 2008. The authors were Harald Weinreich, Hartmut Obendorf, Eelco Herder, and Matthias Mayer.
Niche users will read more
If the page’s content targets a niche group, it’s recommended to increase the word-count as the topic will interest them profoundly.
Broader audience reads less
If the page’s content targets a broad audience, it is recommended to decrease the number of words on a page or frontload information so the most critical info is found in the first 20-30% of the content. Information can be front-loaded by the inverted pyramid approach.
Study summary: How much users read on the web?
How Little Do Users Read? Why visitors only read 20% of your web page