Content Management

From F to Z: How Users Read Your Content

January 3, 2023 2 minute read
Explore the science behind content reading patterns, including eye-tracking insights on how to structure your content for maximized reader engagement.

When creating digital content, one key thing to note is that people skim on websites. They scan the titles and descriptions for keywords that grab their attention and are consequently, running through the page to see if the content is worth reading. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, this is the result of information-seeking behavior, a cognitive trait that allows users to strategically estimate how much useful information they will get out of a given path. To help your users glean as much information as they can from your content, you need to understand reading patterns.

The Nielsen Norman group has identified four patterns readers use: F-pattern, spotted pattern, layer-cake pattern, and commitment pattern. Let's explore these groups to see what you should consider when creating content. 


Most users fall under an F-pattern where they scan from left to right, top to bottom, and eventually trailing off to only the beginning of sentences. When visualized using eye-tracking software, these movements look like a capital letter F. 

Spotted pattern

Users that interact with content in this manner are skipping around to seek out keywords or visually emphasized elements. You can optimize your content for this pattern by highlighting important keywords and by dividing content into new sections. This could include using headings, bullet points, numbered lists, bolding, or underlining.

Layer-cake pattern

This is an effective pattern of reading for content that is divided into subheads and lists, where users will pick out keywords from the headings and scan some of the body text as well. To encourage this pattern, use your keywords in the front of the heading and at the beginning of paragraphs to grab attention.

Commitment pattern

This is how we hope most people to read — by taking in almost every word on a page. This reading pattern occurs when people thoroughly read the text. This is when people find the text engaging and want to consume every word. Like how we hope you’re reading this blog.

What's next?

When creating content it's important to remember that it's not just about what you write, but also how it's structured. Take these patterns into consideration the next time you're writing content or creating a new page layout. 

To learn more about other content elements to consider, check out our article on content readability.  

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