Why your web content must adapt

October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

By Callum Smith: https://sites.google.com/site/callumsmithwebsitecopywriting/

Credit: Directory Journal

In comparison to your right brain, only your left brain hemisphere reads.

In comparison to paper texts, computer screens tire your left brain hemisphere.

You read less, therefore, of a web page’s words than a paper text’s words.


1.) Brain-hemisphere researcher Mike Gazzaniga stated after reviewing an experiment where a patient’s brain hemispheres were surgically separated:

Credit: Create Subliminal Messages

Since it is the  left hemisphere that normally posesses the natural language and speech mechanisms, all processes ongoing in the left hemisphere could easily be verbally described by the patients; information presented to the right hemisphere went undescribed.Review of the Split Brain, in The Human Brain, M.C. Wittrock, p. 91.

Only your left brain, therefore, reads.

2.) Computer-screen resolution frequency slows left-hemisphere-produced brain waves, resulting in right-hemisphere dominance, and thus poor reading comprehension.

Credit: Phun with Physics

A 1969 experiment by Herbert Krugman proved it, seen in a decent summary  here.

Computer screens, therefore, weaken your reading comprehension.

3.) As a result, people read only 20% of a web page’s words, proved by infrared-eye-tracking technology.

Credit: WhatClinic.com

Results of the study by Usability guru Jakob Nielsen can be seen here.

You therefore read a small fraction of an average web page’s words.



You read less of a web page’s words than a paper text’s words because computer-screen resolution slows your logical left-brain thinking.

But if you were a test subject and told to read a lot of digital content for an experiment funded by a marketing and e-reader software company trying to prove to the public and investors that

there are no disadvantages to reading from electronic reading devices compared with reading printed texts,

you would read it all. You as a test subject would give the required effort and understand it all, no matter how discouraging it seems. But the before mentioned experiment, in its context, was not reality.

In the real world you would more likely have either went to another website or gave it a very brief scan because electronic reading devices require more human effort than does paper:

Almost all of the participants stated that they liked reading a printed book best,

stated a director and designer of the study.

Imagine walking on a flat surface and suddenly appears a hill. Walking it requires greater effort, so you investigate alternate routes. It’s like reading web material. The world seems fine but after going online you encounter a page full of text and there’s no way you’re reading it.

Your web content, consequently, requires a right-brain style to be effective, explained elsewhere on my blog, at Web content is the new poetry.

The digital-reader study measured reading comprehension on computer screens vs reading comprehension on paper, the results of which don’t matter if no one reads. What’s important is basic online behavior, which is that people scan for the good stuff, explained on my website: https://sites.google.com/site/callumsmithwebsitecopywriting/web-copy-editing

Powerfully, words direct. Credit: Encyclopedia of Science

Additional References:

Electric Language: Understanding the present, by Eric McLuhan.

The Global Village, by Marshal McLuhan.


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