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It’s Important to Eat Your Own Dog Food

construction-marketing-website-designEating your own dog food” or “dogfooding” is a term that means to use your own product or in my case, to take your own advice, which is something we all should do from time to time. I have eaten my own dog food. While spending the last few weeks concentrating on website design and layout, I started thinking about the blog. Over the last few weeks I have gone back and forth between a 2 column  or 3 column layout, a new header, then back to the old one, and I tested a new color scheme. In the end, I have adopted the “F” word.

Welcome to the “F” word!

Website usability is a key component to developing new business, and I like to develop new business. Which is why I always want darrenslaughter.com to be as easy to use as possible. In chasing that rabbit down the hole, I have changed the blog a bit and adopted a somewhat non-traditional look for most blogs by having my sidebar on the left side of the page instead of on the right side. I have done this because we read web pages the same way we read text in a book or on a newspaper– our eyes automatically start at the top left and work their way across the page towards the right. Then we start again from the left on the next line.

Take a look:

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: useit.com

I have known about the “F” pattern of reading for a long time, but never adopted it here because I know you are probably used to reading blogs that are setup with their main content/sidebar content and I didn’t want to make mine different. But after coming across Jakob Nielsen’s post again I thought a change was in order.

From Jakob’s findings:

In our eyetracking study, we recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of Web pages. We found that users’ main reading behavior was fairly consistent across many different sites and tasks. This dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:

  • Users won’t read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors. Yes, some people will read more, but most won’t.
  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. There’s some hope that users will actually read this material, though they’ll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second.
  • Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior. They’ll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.

It’s hard to argue with that type of data, so I am giving it a try here at Darren’s house of useless knowledge. I am primarily concentrating on the increased/decreased number of subscribers I get to the newsletter on a weekly basis as my yardstick to measure by, and I will let you know the results in a few weeks.

But, if this little exercise tanks and you see my ugly mug over on the right side of the page again then you know it wasn’t going well…or I just changed my mind…again! But how about you, any plans to make changes to your site for the coming year or are you happy with your current results? Let me know.