F pattern

People read differently online to how they read on paper. Studies using eye-tracking software show that people usually read a web page in an ‘F’ shape pattern.

While those reading traditional print content tend to read line by line and from left to right in Western language, online users read horizontally across the upper part of the page, then move down the page and read horizontally across. They then scan vertically down the left-hand side. This means that web content needs to be written differently from print content.

The most important information needs to go at the beginning of sentences. Users can then decide if this is what they want to read and continue. The way to do this is to frontload content.

When designing your content use: 

  • clear and concise headings and sub-headings 
  • short sentences of no more than 25 words 
  • compact paragraphs of no more than four sentences 
  • bullet points to make text easier to read 
  • frontloaded text with the most important information first 

You should avoid dense paragraphs, known as walls of text. These make it difficult for users to scan and find the information they need and can cause reader fatigue. 

We are constantly improving based on research and best practice. Any significant changes to our guidance are available on the Updates page.