Although we have to stay away from the notion that surfers are homogenous in their behavior, there are patterns that can be construed as being part of the web design process. They will examine a new page for a few seconds and then decide whether the text content is worth reading. A link that is of interest might cause them to click but there are very many parts of the website that they will simply ignore. It is during this brief period that you are supposed to persuade them to buy your goods and services.
1. Credibility: Websites set standards and often fail on those very same standards. Although high quality content might appear to be a tedious task, it can get you good quality traffic. A case in point is a website that claims to review the best kitchen units. It would not be credible if that website merely promoted one brand. Likewise that website would lose customers if it was crowded by flashy adverts to false marketing pages. The credibility issue has to be tackled from the perspective of both the content and its presentation.
2. Length and width: There are academic websites that contain first rate content. The documents are well researched and there are plenty of statistics to prove the points that are discussed. Unfortunately most commercial websites are not allowed that privilege. Within 3 paragraphs, you must be able to sell everything about your brand. Make sure that you create fixed points such as demarcation bars or highlights to concentrate the gaze of the surfer. Long descriptions are not going to do the trick.
3. Cognitive load: Unfortunately most surfers have very short attention spans. They will determine whether to pursue the page within a few seconds of landing. If you hide your most important items at the bottom of the page, they will invariably be missed by the reader. Start with the top priorities and then work backwards to the fluff. If you are selling car insurance, do not begin with a description of leather seats. The leather seats are a peripheral product that is not at the heart of the sales you are looking for.
4. Logic: Surfers are not logical in their search for information. Had they been logical, then the number of internet sales would be declining. In fact they are looking for the quickest route to information. They do not read information on a linear pattern. Sequences are often ignored in favor of highlights. You should design the website on the basis of key highlights and not a sequence of detailed statements. Finally you need to give the user control over the information that they are checking. Allow them to customize the screen and the variables.