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Web Designer Secrets: The “F” Pattern Demystified

By Erin  |   Website Design

web design secret: classic F pattern

The F-Pattern is an industry secret used by the top website designers (yep, including our very own Denver web designers here at Followbright) and agencies to help guide the creation of effective website designs.  (And yes, absolutely, we use this knowledge here at our Denver website design company when creating our clients' website designs.)

Here's the low down: Eye-tracking studies demonstrate that the manner in which people read content on the web differs from how they read printed materials.  And yep, when they arrive at a webpage they read in an F-Pattern.

By focusing a webpage's critical content within the rough shape of the letter F, companies that practice strategic website design ensure their clients' site visitors see what they want them to see.

See examples of beautiful sites we've designed.

The Mysterious F Pattern Explained

Let's break this down.

Suzy is browsing the web.  She opens up a new web page.

Instantly, without her even realizing they're doing so, her eyes begin to scan the page's content in the rough shape of an F.  This means she'll first look across the top horizontal bar of the letter "F" for important content and to orient herself before she looks anywhere else. In other words, she's looking from left to right across the top of the web page.

Next, Suzy will likely return her gaze to the left hand side of the web page and do a quicker glance across the lower horizontal bar that sits parallel to the top one she just scanned.  

F-pattern in website design

Lastly, her eyes scan the long, imaginary vertical bar that runs down the left-hand side of the screen and completes the letter F.  

Only after her eyes finish this scanning (which may take less than one second) will they begin to scan through the main text on the web page, focusing first on bullet points, bold words and headings. 

Most readers rarely stop to read long blocks of text. Within seconds, website visitors have decided whether or not they'll stay or go, with much of this decision based on what they've seen along the three main scan-lines that form the F-Pattern.

(Important Note: Though this is a common scanning pattern, website visitors do not always scan in this fashion.  

See examples of effective websites we've designed.

Some website designs are heavily weighted with design and content on the right side of the screen.  People in other countries may read from right to left or top to bottom instead of left to right.  Some people have visited a site in the past and are already aware of the content that exists across the top and down the left side of a page. In other words, though it's an extremely common pattern, many variables contribute to whether or not web users scan pages in the shape of an F upon arrival.).

The F-Pattern can increase your website's effectiveness

The strategic web design company or inbound marketing company you work with can use the secret of the F-Pattern to your advantage when designing your website's pages. They might...

  • reserve the top bar of the F-Pattern for the most important content on the page – the headline.  Without a compelling headline, readers may be tempted to skip on to the next page or worse, to a competitor's page.  (After all, why would they spend time reading content if they can't first determine what it's about?) 
  • prevent visitor confusion by placing a sub heading or Call To Action (CTA) on some pages along the short horizontal bar. The words of the sub heading should reinforce your primary, intriguing headline and tell visitors what they can do next.
  • include your site's main navigation along the vertical bar of the F-Pattern, as it's a prime spot for site visitors to look when orienting themselves.

Website design is both an art and a science

Good website design is both an art and a science. 

Using time-tested design patterns and industry secrets such as the F-Pattern enable strategic design companies to offer maximum readability and usability. It enables them to create unique, branded pages that sell products, tell stories, and increase leads and conversions. 

Make sure you take your time choosing your web design company, and make sure that your final choice focuses on science-based design, not just pretty colors, to maximize your investment.

Looking for web design that does more than look good? Look here.

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