Web pages - the visitors' perspective

A comparison between web pages and magazines can be enlightening.

You might be attracted to a magazine in the newsagent by words or headlines on the cover which suggest interesting articles inside. You pick up the magazine and flip through the pages - you scan the pages rather than reading them.

If the magazine looks interesting, and you are in the market for magazines, then you might buy it, take it home, and read it in more detail.

Most people go through exactly the same process with a web page.

The magazine rack

Let's develop this analogy. Visitors won't find any web pages in magazine racks, but a list of results in a search engine performs a very similar function.

The search engine presents a list of pages that correspond to a search. Your visitor will need to pick one. Clearly the visitor will pick the entry that looks like it will provide the content they searched for.

The search engine listing, not your home page, is the place where visitors decide whether or not to look at your content.

The guide to web page optimization for search engines shows how search engines construct the entry. You should ensure the title and summary sell your page in a way that will encourage visitors to click on it in preference to other search engine entries.

Flipping through the web site

In much the same way as in a newsagent your visitor will quickly want to make the judgment whether to stay on the site or look elsewhere. The visitor will do this by scanning.

A magazine page will normally be organized into manageable chunks. Like a magazine, your content should be divided up into blocks and snippets to make it easy to scan for information. Scanning is discussed in more detail in our guide to web usability.

The problem with search engines is they are likely to direct visitors to the most relevant page on a site, which is likely not to be the home page.

Clear navigation on every page will provide an indication of what else is available on your site and might persuade the visitor to stay rather than press the back button. Good navigation is very difficult and we have created a guide to navigation to help.


Only when the visitor decides the information they require can be easily found on your page will they read the content. Now you can start entertaining, selling, and do whatever it is you want to do with your site.

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