Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Best marketing pitch for the App Store : understanding reading patterns

The App Store requires you to write a presentation of your App, which is something you have probably seen a hundred times if you have surfed on the App Store with your iPad. This post will focus on some reading pattern issues that I found important to capture before getting into the "pitch" subject which I will review in a second post.

As of today, there are no real public studies about readers behavior on the App Store. The only way we can figure  how readers behave on the App Store is through how they read in real life and more specifically how they read on the web, something that has received a lot of attention in the past 15 years.

Let's start with facts from real life: People read on average 200 words per minute. Since there are between 15 and 20 words per line, the average person reads one line in 5 seconds. So if they get to your app description and knowing they can only read 3 lines without having to scroll down, they are likely to spend 15 seconds on your App description, yes, 15 seconds and that's it.

You have 15 seconds to get your audience interested

Not only they spend a very limited time on your description but eye tracking studies suggest that reading is not a smooth process: we read over the text, stop from times to times in a process called fixation. Then we move forward or backward (if we didn't understand for example).

Fixation is good in marketing because it increases the chances that the reader will remember.

But fixation depends on how long the word is (short words don't get much fixation) and its nature: if the word is a content word, there's 85% chances we will fix it, it it's a function word, there's 35% chances we will fix it.

Fixation is a reading process you'll be looking for

And it gets worse:
  • Web studies have shown that people will scan the main sections of a page and make decisions in 3 seconds about staying or leaving.
  • If they stay, meaning that they do scroll down your app, if their behavior is similar to web user behavior, they will read only 20% of your text, often focusing on a triangular area in the upper left corner. Eye tracking studies have shown that this reading behavior looks like an F shape, specifically on e-commerce sites.

F shape reading pattern

Now let's apply this behavior to the app store where you don't have as much choice as on an html page. Here are the most important part of your text before the user scrolls down:

This is what most customers read before they scroll 

and if he took the decision to scroll down and "read" the rest of the text:

This is what most customers read if they scroll down

I don't have an eye tracking device and I haven't try to check that this web reading pattern apply to all users (but I swear I will). Using an iPad to browse the App Store is something very new that is likely to evolve over time. Also the impact of screen captures is not taken into account.

Nonetheless until someone smarter than me with an eye tracking device challenge this theory (for which I will welcome any input), I suggest the following for App developers:
  • Put the most important content first, in the opening sentences and paragraphs and get straight to the point: what is you App about?
  • Make short sentences with content words
  • Use bullets lists wherever you can
If you want more information about reading patterns, I encourage you to visit the following sites:
- Nielsen's research on web readers : Nielsen is one the eye tracking most recognized searchers and is the first one to have identified the F shape pattern
- The National Center for Children with Disabilities (yes) has a very good article on the subject that you can find here
- Apple studies that you will find if you work for one of these organizations  (and you can send me whatever you have)

1 comment:

  1. Quiet an interesting story , looking forward to this application.