Dang I’m tired of reading that statement. Why would anyone with a lick of sense say anything so generalized and unlikely to be true as “users don’t read”?
because the statement “people read sometimes, and don’t other times.” just isn’t sexy?
What I’ve seen in the slew of user tests I’ve been involved in is that people do read content, though they find it tiring and have a tendency to not complete a story/article. Jakob Nielsen’s 1997 alertbox on how people read on the web is still on the money.
People do read instructions when they don’t know what to do. However, if they think they understand the interface, they do *not* read the instructions, which can cause serious problems if they are wrong. Most people do not want to RTFM.
They read when they have someting at stake, like when shopping or registering for a service. The fine print suddenly makes for compelling reading.
And of course, the statement “people don’t read” is mostly false because there are no “people” as there is no all encompassing “user.” Instead there are many individual people. Some people read, some don’t, some vary wildly in their reading habits.
So the most important thing to think about is “who are my people?”
Then you can ask the key question: not “do they read?”, but rather, “how do they read?”