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The end of the F word?

Approx. reading time: 2 minutes

No not that F word! But the F pattern that describes the way the human eye takes in content from a screen. A quick scan from left to right along the top of the screen (the top bar of the F). A smaller scan just beneath it (the second horizontal bar). And a glance up and down the left hand side (the upright of the F).

Eye tracking and heat mapping studies of the human eye established this browsing pattern and, based on that research, web writers and designers were encouraged to string the hooks – the words and images – that grab a potential reader’s attention – somewhere along the F. Not bury those hook so far down that they wouldn’t be seen let alone read. Except maybe the F pattern no longer applies.

I say this because I’ve just updated my iPhone to iOS 15.1 and I’ve noticed the address bar has moved to the bottom of the screen (see screenshot). This may seem like a modest layout tweak. But this is HUGE change. It’s akin to the change from top-loading to front loading washing machines. Seriously, I don’t think anyone has yet fully thought through the implications. It could, for example, mean that the screen space just above that box with the URL in becomes as important as the top of the screen. So perhaps the F will morph into an E.

An annotated iPhone screengrab showing the address bar has moved from top to bottom.

That said, what hasn’t changed it is that words still matter. Always have. Always will. Top loading and front loading washing machines have clothes in common. F pattern or E pattern websites have words in common. The right word in the right place is always going to do better than the wrong word in the wrong place. So it’s worth asking: is this the right place? Right down the bottom here with the address bar (at least on my iPhone)? I’m keen to know your thoughts…

Still not sure what the F pattern is? Then here’s a quick video we put together for one of our clients who used our Ask the Owls service on our YouTube channel.


This post first appeared on LinkedIn and will be leading me to update (yet again) my modest little book Writing for the Web which is available to buy here and on the Apple and Amazon bookstores for just £4.99 which is probably less than you spend on coffee everyday and will give you a buzz for weeks.

Have your say. You know you want to!

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