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How You Can Aid User Scanning by Using Eyebrow Headlines

Are you writing your marketing headlines the way users read online?

An eye-tracking study found that most users don’t read entire headlines. Instead, they scan the left sides of headlines and only read the first few words.

Further research discovered most users scan the first two words of a headline. They do this to predict where it’ll lead them before they click the call to action.

Users Need Keywords Fast

If the first two words don’t hint at what the content is about they’ll not only skip your headline, but your blurb and call to action too.

When users hunt for information, their patience and attention span is short. They need to see strong keywords in the first few words of your headline or else they’ll move on.

One way to do this is to put keywords in the front of your headlines instead of leaving them at the end. But this isn’t always the best approach because a rigid syntax can compromise the emotional appeal of your marketing headline.

Designers need a better way to write headlines that not only appeal to users, but also give them keywords fast.

Eyebrow Headlines

A technique that will give users the keyword cues they need is the use of eyebrow headlines. An eyebrow headline is a descriptive keyword or phrase placed above the main headline and blurb. It appears in a smaller font and sums up all the text in a couple words.

eyebrow_headline

Eyebrow headlines give users a cue on what the text is about before they commit to reading it. If the user is interested in that topic, they’ll commit to reading the rest. If not, they’ll skip it and won’t waste time reading text that has little relevance to them.

In the example below, the keyword “augmented reality” doesn’t get scanned by users in the main headline so they have no idea what the text is about. With the eyebrow headline, the keyword gets scanned immediately and gives users the context they need.

eyebrow_headline-keyword_scan

The keywords that were hard to find in main headlines are more prominent in eyebrow headlines. When users scan, they see strong keywords immediately. Instead of scanning a full sentence, they only need to scan a couple words.

Eyebrow headlines can also improve reading comprehension. Getting the context up front prevents users from having to infer the meaning of the text as they read.

User engagement can increase with eyebrow headlines. When users see a keyword of interest, it’ll give them the incentive to read your text and click the call to action. This means your main headlines and blurbs won’t get ignored.

Eyebrow Styling

Your eyebrow headline should be smaller than the main headline but still easy to spot. You can make it distinct by varying its visual style. Some ways to do this are to add a bolder weight on it, all uppercase the letters, or change its color.

eyebrow_headline-styling

When to Use Them

Not every headline needs an eyebrow. It’s redundant to add an eyebrow if your headline is short and contains many keywords.

Remember users will scan the first two words of a headline. If your first two words already have keywords, an eyebrow would only distract users. Eyebrows are most useful for long headlines that don’t have keywords in them.

eyebrow_headline-usage

In the example above, there’s a long headline with and without an eyebrow. Reading the headline without the eyebrow is harder to understand because it lacks keywords and context. The user also has no incentive to read all that text.

Reading the headline with the eyebrow makes it easier to understand. It’s short to scan, has keywords, and gives context. The eyebrow gives the user an incentive to read the long headline.

Not For Article Headlines

Most article headlines are written in a SEO format. This means they are already concise and keyword dense. Adding an eyebrow headline on them would only distract users.

Instead of adding eyebrows on your article headlines, you should use tags. Tags will give users contextual cues and help them navigate to similar articles.

Users Don’t Read, They Scan

Users don’t have the time or effort to figure out what you’re key message is. You should present your keywords up front to make it easier for them to scan your text. Eyebrow headlines can help you do this. Use this technique to aid user scanning and get them going in the direction they want to go.


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Article written by anthony

Author and founder of UX Movement. Creating a better digital world for mankind by teaching and evangelizing best practices, standards, and techniques in user experience design.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Diana Soare Reply

    Interesting info. Using eyebrow headlines seems like a beneficial way to hint exactly to the main subject of the article without having to clutter the headline. I’ll keep this in mind. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Glenn Friesen Reply

    To me, simply including the category label(s) of the post as the “eyebrow headline”, as this very site does, seems like the most reasonable, scalable and elegant application of this research.

  3. Tommy Burgess Reply

    Great food for thought, I’ll definitely be testing out the use of eyebrow headlines especially on emails to see if they can help improve CTR. Thanks Anthony!

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