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Jakob Nielsen holds a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction from the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen. He has written many papers on how we read the web. Here are a few of Nielsen’s findings:

  • Keywords are critical
  • One-idea paragraphs
  • Conclusion first
  • Half the word count of regular writing (more concise text)
  • Language on most websites is objective
  • Readers don’t read thoroughly–they scan
  • Studies of readers’ scanning behaviour show that readers look at webpages in an “F” pattern.
  • Web is an active medium (people want to get things done)
  • Hyperlinks must be inviting enough for web users to want to click
  • Short sentences are read more often than long sentences on the web
  • Bulleted information is ideal form of writing for the web
  • Interactive features are critical
  • Large fonts
  • Active voice
  • Web readers read the first two words of each paragraph
  • Numbers are better understood as numerals in paragraphs
  • Format matters because of different devices (e.g. how will this look on a phone?)
  • External credible links enhance a websites credibility
  • Clear headings are critical