Using the F-Shaped Reading Pattern for Email Marketing

|by Demi-Leigh Donohoe

Attention spans are lower than ever, and people no longer tend to sit down and read through an email’s or a webpage’s content. 

They scan through them, and if nothing catches their interest in a matter of seconds, they’ll exit. 

Typically, readers don’t skim-read in a typical left-to-right pattern. That’s why, when designing your email template, you need to consider the way your subscribers are most likely to view your email. 

By knowing where their eye gaze is likely to go, you can place your call-to-action buttons in the best locations to encourage them to convert. 

This article will walk you through how to use the F-shaped reading pattern for your marketing campaigns. The F-pattern design helps you to establish a visual hierarchy for getting your readers to focus on specific elements in your email campaigns. It’s super handy for getting your message across to your audience and increasing engagement.  

We’ll show you why the F-shaped reading pattern works for your email marketing, how it works, and how you can adapt it to your emails. 

What is the F-shaped reading pattern? 

The F-shaped reading pattern is one of the most common eye-scanning patterns that readers use for content blocks. 

The Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) identified the F-shaped reading pattern during an eye-tracking study. They studied more than two hundred users who looked at thousands of web pages. The F-shaped pattern is the most commonly discussed in the study. 

The pattern consists of three individual components: 

  1. The user reads in a horizontal movement, usually at the top of the content area. This makes up the top part of the letter F. 
  2. They then move down the page and read in a second horizontal movement. This is generally shorter in length than the first horizontal movement. 
  3. Finally, the user reads down the left-hand side of the content in a vertical movement. This makes up the final part of the letter F. 

It looks something like this: 

(It's important to note that the F-shaped reading pattern isn’t a fool-proof layout, it's more of a rough, generalised outline – not necessarily a perfect ‘F’ shape.)

How to use the F-shaped pattern for your emails

The F-reading pattern gives you control over your email campaign design, whilst optimising for interactions and engagement. Use a drag-and-drop email builder if you want to make the creation process quick and easy. 

Here are some tips on creating an F-shaped pattern for your own email campaigns: 

Prioritise your content 

Arrange the different pieces of content on your page by prioritising the most important and least important parts. 

Place the most important parts in the “hot-spots” of the pattern to increase interactions. 

Don’t forget that email content should always be clear and concise. 

Set expectations 

Contacts will read the first elements of content at the top of the email, so make sure that the first horizontal contains the important message that you’re trying to get across. 

Design for scanning 

Create your email content and designs with scanning in mind and put content on the F-layout that contacts are most likely to be interested in. 

When designing for your readers to easily scan your email campaigns, consider these points: 

  • Start new paragraphs and blocks of text with enticing words.
  • People will always look at the most dominant element in the email first. Give more weight to the important elements; use bold formatting to highlight text, or consider using different colours to highlight call-to-action buttons.
  • Only cover one idea or purpose in each block of content and use bullet points to make the content scannable. 

Here is one great example of the F-shaped pattern in practice in an email campaign from Bloglovin’: 

The Bloglovin‘ email uses a header to draw the readers’ eye to the start of each new content block. The reader can scan down the left side of the page to see which blog post is most relevant to them. Bloglovin’ repeat the F-shaped pattern a number of times in the email. 

It’s your turn to use the F-shaped pattern 

Now that you’re aware of the F-shaped reading pattern, you might start to notice it more often on other email campaigns and landing pages. 

When you’re using an email builder, try using the F-shaped pattern in your own email marketing campaign. You might be surprised how effective it can be. 

Want to create your own email and try out the F-shaped pattern? Our easy-to-use HTML email builder offers an easy way for creating great-looking emails. See it in action along with loads of other powerful features by booking a demo.

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