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One-Minute MarketerThe Layer-Cake Pattern of Website Scanning

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The Layer-Cake Pattern of Website Scanning

If you’ve regularly read my blog, you know that one of my favorite sources of new information and research is NN/g (Nielsen Norman Group). NN/g is hyper-focused on user experience, which runs counter to almost every way an organization looks at its website. Chocolate Fudge Cake

NN/g research using eye-tracking and gaze plot analysis reveals that people are lazy: They do not read every word of a website (or any other digital communication such as email). People want to find what they want quickly and easily. As NN/g says, “People are naturally efficient and attempt to put in the least possible work for achieving their goals.”

Essential Information

Website layouts must visually organize the information so users can identify “essential” information. The layer-cake scanning pattern is created by people stopping mostly on headlines and subheads. So heat maps show stopping at a headline (the frosting), only occasional stopping on body copy (the cake), stopping on the subhead (frosting) and little stopping at attached body copy (cake). The layer-cake method is how people scan a page.

How to Do Layer-Cake Design

The problem arises when type sizes, colors or fonts do not make a clear delineated pattern of headline and subhead mapping.  Here are a few ideas on accomplishing this for mobile and desktop websites:

  • Mark subheads so they clearly stand out
  • Use a “consistent, predictable” format
  • Clearly show which body copy goes with a headline
  • Prioritize content ordering on website
  • Chunk content blocks

The layer-cake approach is much more efficient than the F-pattern. UX is what web design is all about.

Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.