Amaratech Blog

F Shaped Pattern Replaces Z Shaped Pattern for Email and Web

Monday, 2013, July 1 - 1:15pm

Most email recipients are “scanners” – users who sweep through an email, looking for something that resonates with them on a personal or professional level. If they can't find it within a few seconds, they move on to the next email in their inbox. By designing your content around the image of an “F” you can help scanners find what they need and boost their engagement.

Why the F-Shaped Pattern for Web and Email

The Nielsen Norman Group conducted a series of studies that resulted in some interesting discoveries when it comes to user behavior on the web. They found that web users spend:

“Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F’s top bar. Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement (the second bar of the F). Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap (the stem of the F).”

How to apply the “F” Pattern to Email and Websites

Here are some tips to help you design a more functional, attention-grabbing email.

  • Follow the “F” shape pattern and keep the majority of your message’s vital information at the top (above the fold).
  • Use headings to keep readers moving through your email.
  • Bold keywords or use a color font to draw attention.
  • When using bullet format, use information-carrying words that readers will notice.
  • If you’re enticing your readers with incentives, much like the Old Navy example, the incentive must still be powerful enough — the right location alone with not prompt your most desired results.

But what about the Z-shaped Pattern for Email and Websites?

While the Z pattern was, and in some user groups still, relevant it’s no longer the dominant user interaction as more and more users have become experienced with technology.

The Z pattern is closely related to the classic reading pattern from hard-copy newspapers, magazines, or journals, and shares the same implications. The Z pattern is more common in non-expert users or more generally when a user finds interesting content. 

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