The F-shape pattern is the standard model in the field of eye tracking. It aims to explain how users perceive a website, where they are looking, and where the attention is greatest.
Users read a web page in a certain way. For example, you can get a first impression by browsing the content of the website from left to right. If certain contents are interesting to the user, they take a closer look. Their gaze wanders down and then back to the right. This pattern of scanning a website is underpinned by eye-tracking studies. Nowadays this takes place by means of so-called heatmaps.
The eye movements are followed and compared with the coordinates of the screen. This provides meaningful data about how a user reads a website, where their eyes get caught and how long their eyes stay on certain points on the screen.
The F-shape pattern was discovered by Jakob Nielsen in an experiment with 232 users. The results of this study suggest that most users look along one vertical and two horizontal lines to capture the content of the web document.  This all happens within seconds, users literally scan the content and move their eyes in fractions of a second. The will only dwell on points that are particularly interesting.
The eye movement allows statements about the optimal design of websites and other documents such as emails or newsletters. Such content can be designed so that at the important points where the user looks relatively closely, exactly the information that the creator of the content wants to disseminate can be found. These contents can be advertising messages, keywords or pictures. It is important to design a website in such a way that it activates certain triggers for the user.
At the so-called fixation points of his gaze are the contents that should influence click behavior. However, marketing experts are by no means in agreement as to how these contents should be designed as optimally as possible. There is a lot of research going on in this area, especially by Google. Eye history can also be used to navigate the user through menus, navigation, or the structure of the text content. The F-shape pattern is currently the standard model for questions of Usability on a web page.
Significance for SEO
Eye tracking is an important aspect of Search Engine Optimization. Since the design of a website should serve the user and satisfy their need for information. The F-shaped pattern can serve as a tool to make a website as user-friendly as possible. If it gets to the most important information quickly and easily, this is simply referred to as good usability. Eye-tracking studies can positively influence usability. If the contents of web documents are designed in such a way that they correspond to the latest findings, usability is usually particularly high.
At the same time, specific triggers such as keywords (free, free or cheap) or images can be placed to make the web document more sales-oriented. Eye-tracking findings can therefore also have a positive influence on values such as dwell time and CTR. Ultimately, however, one should not rely on studies that 'only' had a few hundred participants. Rather, you should try out for yourself what works and what doesn't. Often, it depends on the target audience and what information they are looking for. For example, a sales-oriented online shop is more likely to be looking for qualified visitors who are interested in products.
- F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content. nngroup.com. Accessed on January 28, 2014.