Left and Up: The Web’s Most Read Spaces

Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half, according to research by Jakob Nielsen.

In terms of user attention along the vertical dimension of web pages, people look at information above the fold far more than they do at information further down the page.

User viewing patterns along the horizontal dimension show that more time is spent on the left side of the page. Using the same data set Nielsen found the following distribution of user attention from the left edge of the screen to the right:

Each bar in the chart shows the amount of time users spent on fixations within a 100-pixel-wide stripe running down the screen, starting from the very left.

People spent more than twice as much time looking at the left side of the page as they did the right:

  • Left half of screen: 69% of viewing time
  • Right half of screen: 30% of viewing time

Information to the right of the initially visible area is in essence “below the fold,” except that they are beyond a right-hand fold instead of a bottom-of-window fold, and thus not literally “below.” Another way of looking at vertical vs. horizontal scrolling is that users allocate 20% of their attention past the fold in the vertical dimension but only 1% past the fold in the horizontal dimension.

The left-most part of the page typically contains a navigation bar, so it’s not surprising that attention grows after the 200-pixel mark, with the most attention around 300–500 pixels. The F-pattern of reading Web content, people tend to focus on the beginning of the first line of a page’s main content area.