This article is an excerpt from Mark MacDonald’s forthcoming book: “Be Known for Something”
There are many studies that track eye movements when people go to a webpage. It helps us to understand what most expect when they go to websites. That’s called the web paradigm. If you break the web paradigm, people won’t understand where things are, and things won’t feel natural to them. Let’s review the website paradigm so you can understand things you shouldn’t seek to alter. Remember, though, this paradigm may shift in the future. Websites are changing regularly, so these ideas are quite broad.
- UPPER-LEFT CORNER – Almost everyone looks here in the header when going to a website. They’re looking for a simple confirmation that they’re at the correct website. They’ve input or clicked on a URL address, and now, they’ve arrived. Confirm that they’re at the right place by putting your logo here. It can be small, but it should be there. And because you’ve captured most people’s attention (even for only a fraction of a second), what else should be in this high-priced real estate? Your be-known-for-something thread… as a simple tagline under the logo, perhaps.
- HEADER – People look for a header area that runs to the right of the logo at the top of the page. They expect to see a menu to the bottom-right of the header. (Menus can also be down the left side of the page, but most are at the top.) A search area is often found in the upper- right side of the header along with a login area or “contact us” section. Churches often use this space for important information like service times, locations, and directions as most congregation and community members visiting the website would want this information regularly.
- MAIN CONTENT AREA – The main content area is where the content is delivered to the reader. It’s typically in the center below the header. Because the average person spends eight to 10 seconds on a page, they want this content to be what they expect, that is, scannable or browsed in a very short time. Approximately 50 words is all that an average American can read in that timeframe (based on the 300-words-per-minute national average). Remember that headlines are read first. Most people will only read the first few words of the headline because we’re not reading everything, and we’re scared of the right side of the page.
- RIGHT SIDE OF THE CONTENT AREA – Thanks to the web paradigm, ads are usually found on the right side of the content area, so people tend to avoid that side to avoid getting tricked into clicking on something unexpected. Only 15-20% of people will ever look at content there. And because of this avoidance, people scan content and value the content on the left as more important than content on the right side.
- LONG PAGES WITH MODULES – Thanks to our migration to mobile devices (phone and tablet) to access our web content, websites need to be as easily viewed on a small screen as on a large desktop monitor. This seamless resizing is called responsiveness. On a mobile device, it’s easier to swipe upward than to click on small links with your thumb, so the longer page with many modules is taking over web paradigm. Just remember to treat modules like you would pages. Keep the content short, and create eye interruptions in the design to indicate where to stop and start when scanning the page.
Be Known for Something: Reconnect with Community by Revitalizing Your Church’s Reputation will be available on April 8, 2017.