Monday, July 03, 2006

Is Reading on the Web really different?

How reading on the Web is different from other media ...

"In 1997, Jakob Neilsen’s Alertbox tackled the topic "How Users Read on the Web". He pointed out that on the web, readers are likely to scan rather than read every word. He did NOT say that this behaviour is different from the way people read in general.

But I keep coming across assertions that people read differently on the web from the way they read on paper. For example, here’s Gerry McGovern in "The Web Content Style Guide excerpt: Writing for the Web: Part 1"

'Everyone who’s observed, tested, or studied online reading agrees that people behave differently when online.'

Well, actually Gerry: no they don’t. By which I mean: reading online is a lot more like reading on paper than it is different from it.

As Ginny Redish has been telling us for years – for example, in her talk at STC conference in 2004, READING ON THE WEB IS DIFFERENT – FROM WHAT?

The point is that users read pages differently from other pages. Think about reading these different types (also known as 'genres') of (paper) pages:

- a greeting card from a dear friend
- a serious newspaper e.g. the Wall Street Journal
- a favourite magazine
- a piece of junk mail from a credit card company"   continued ...   (Via Usability News)

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