F-pattern is one of the basic and fundamental patterns of how people see and read. If you use it right, it can help you a lot. I’ll explain how (with pictures, too.)
A recent study from Harvard Business Review dug into why consumers choose to purchase from certain online retailers. Ultimately, the researchers discovered that consumers rely on their intuition – not logical thinking – to determine whether or not they will complete a purchase online. Thus, design plays a far larger role in converting users to consumers than one might expect. A beautiful, simple and easy-to-navigate website design will send positive messages of safety and reliance to consumers as opposed to invoking caution.
What Is The F-Pattern and Why Is It Effective?
The F-Pattern is a simple layout designed to guide a user’s eye to information that you want them to see based on engrained human behavior. In this case, the F-pattern is rooted in the way we read — left to right.
People who read left to right naturally spend more time on the left side of a page – it’s where we return every time we want to start a new sentence or search for newer, interesting content. Thus, keeping navigation, additional information, filters or other important elements on that side increases the chance that they will be utilized.
And, when people can see your information, it’s more likely to stick. If it sticks, it’s more likely to convert.
A heatmap of user attention, showing clear F-patterns on different kinds of pages.
When the F-Pattern Works Best
According to user experience firm Nielsen Norman Group, there are three specific conditions that lead to viewers scanning your content in an F-pattern:
- A page or a section of a page includes text that has little or no formatting for the web. For example, it has a “wall of text” but no bolding, bullets, or subheadings.
- The user is trying to be most efficient on that page.
- The user is not so committed or interested that he is willing to read every word.
If #1 applies to you, you have bigger problems than optimizing for patterns. You should work on making your website usable.
But #2 and #3 are out of your control and it’s how most of people use the web today. No time, just scanning.
How To Implement The F-Pattern In Your Website Design
First, determine the action you want your users to complete on the webpage and the information that is the most important. This will inform the content that you frontload left-to-right.
The Vancouver college has a clear F-pattern on their homepage, and the actions they want visitors to complete are evident. Across the top of the page, current students can log into a portal filled with information about their studies. Meanwhile, down the left side and in the second prong of the “F,” potential students can learn about the college and apply for admission. Finally, the third prong – which makes this pattern more of an acceptable, similar E-pattern – you’ll see a slider of recent news.
There are no additional elements or flashy aspects to distract the users from the information on this page, which is particularly important in F-patterns.
A Few Examples
And lastly, an example of what not to do:
This page doesn’t follow the F-Layout. It lacks any visual hierarchy.
Where does your attention go first? The image? The discount? The one-form field? The three offers at the bottom?
Your eyes aren’t drawn to one specific place. Therefore, it’s difficult for visitors to identify the primary goal of the page and Pest Exterminator will likely struggle in generating conversions.
- Use short sentences and phrases in the F-pattern – remember, this isn’t a novel!
- While your F-pattern is certainly allowed to transform into more of an E-pattern (particularly in websites with deeper scrolls) frontload your most important information in the first two prongs. They are the most important.
- When in doubt, take a cue from SEO best practices and use things like bullet points and frontloaded keywords to entice readers.
- Don’t forget smartphones! The F-pattern is still effective on mobile, so you’d be wise top optimize your design using this layout.
PS. The PS part is the very bottom part of the F. It feels nice to get to the very bottom, right? 😉