by Steve Krug
One of the very few well-documented facts about Web use is that people tend to spend very little time reading most Web pages.1 Instead, we scan (or skim) them, looking for words or phrases that catch our eye.
The exception, of course, is pages that contain documents like news stories, reports, or product descriptions. But even then, if the document is longer than a few paragraphs, we’re likely to print it out—since it’s easier and faster to read on paper than on a screen.
Why do we scan?
We're usually in a hurry.
Much of our Web use is motivated by the desire to save time. As a result, Web users tend to act like sharks: they have to keep moving, or they’ll die. We just don’t have the time to read any more than necessary.
We know we don’t need to read everything.
On most pages, we’re really only interested in a fraction of what’s on the page. We’re just looking for the bits that match our interests or the task at hand, and the rest of it is irrelevant. Scanning is how we find the relevant bits.
We’re good at it.
We’ve been scanning newspapers, magazines, and books all our lives to find the parts we’re interested in, and we know that it works.