Question: Are you a "linear" or "non-linear" reader?
When it comes to reading online, I'm definitely a non-linear reader. Many people can arguably relate to non-linear reading because of our fast-paced society. We don't have a lot of time to read an entire website and often times, as Author Jakob Nielsen explains, users are lazy. Many websites make the mistake of incorrectly organizing their information and need to make sure they are creating a site encompassing the needs of the user. However, if I am on a website that I regularly visit, I will tend to read in more linearity. I believe the same habits are true for many other Internet users.
The reason a user returns to a website is because it has created a space that is comfortable and easy for people to use. Jakob Nielsen stresses getting to the point when giving information in his article "Reading on the Web".In fact, he says "promotional language imposes a cognitive burden on users who have to spend resources on filtering out the hyperbole to get at the facts." As users of the Internet, we want brevity. One of the main reasons for non-linear reading is because of advertising and annoying promotional language that distracts us from our main task (see http://www.shoebuy.com/ as an example of a bad website). Also, Nielsen tells us in "Information Foraging" to use language that is plain and visible. If you want to draw attention to your website, the reader needs to make a connection with what they are looking for in the words you are writing.
Reading a lot of text is extremely exhausting for users. Many times readers will give up if your website doesn't contain what they are looking for within the first paragraph, which is another reason for non-linear writing. If I am at a search engine looking up a word's definition, I will skip through the ones that pop up first unless it is from the website that I trust the most. I will also read the first sentence of the competing websites to see if they have any information better than the website I usually go to--if not, I don't even bother clicking on the link to their site. With that being said, users are almost forced to be non-linear readers because of all of the junk incorporated into some websites.