Over the past few years, there has been a big push towards optimizing websites for mobile devices. What’s been startling is the impact that mobile usage has had on non-mobile devices. Mobile responsive design naturally tends towards the up and down scroll. There is not enough room to place content side-by-side, so it becomes stacked. Most mobile sites and social apps utilize infinite scroll. One page loads, and you just continue to scroll down to your heart’s content.

Google has adjusted accordingly. Have you noticed anything missing in Google lately? They have been phasing out ads and content on the right side of the screen. This screenshot from a Mediative eye-tracking study highlights a huge change in desktop user behavior between 2005 and 2014:

Mediative Eye Tracking Report

Notice how users viewed the page in an ‘F’ format (also called triangular) in 2005. Contrast that with 2014 where users looked up and down on the left-hand side of the screen. The Mediative report summed up the findings like this:

Mobile devices have habitually conditioned searchers to scan vertically more than horizontally. Searchers are looking for the fastest path to the desired content.

When this visual tracking is combined with Google Analytics data showing user behavior shifting to fewer pages per visit and less time on the site, we begin to see trends in mobile usage affecting use on desktop and laptop viewing behavior.

What does this mean for your website?

Most people still hold that visitors view web pages in a ‘F’ format. They start at the top left, look to the right, go down a bit, look a little less to the right, and then view down the page. This is simply no longer the case and websites need to adjust to this shift in user behavior. Here are some ways to do that:

  • If your website is not optimized for mobile devices, switch to a responsive design. And replace your shag carpet because it’s 2016.
  • Remove the right sidebar unless absolutely necessary for navigation purposes.
  • Combine pages were appropriate. There is no need to have 18 about pages highlighting mission, purpose, team, team member pets, pet sleep patterns, diary entries, etc. on separate pages. First off, remove unnecessary content and then put it all on one About page with sub-navigation that allows the visitor to skip to the different parts of the page. If visitors are viewing fewer pages per visit, then create fewer, more relevant pages.
  • Utilize visual tracking analytics like CrazyEgg to determine the content your visitors deem most important. Place that at the top left of the page.

Most of us have appropriately adjusted to the mobile revolution. Most of us have not adjusted to the behavior changes on other devices driven by mobile usage.

Erik Rostad

Author Erik Rostad

Erik Rostad started EPR Creations in May 2008. He works with universities, international organizations, and executives on their online presence.

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