Digital Media Literacy: How to Read a Webpage

Lesson 3: How to Read a Webpage


How to read a webpage

When you open a webpage, it may contain many things that want your attention, like ads, related articles, or clickbait. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, we'll show you how to read a webpage so you can ignore the distractions and focus on the main content.

The anatomy of a webpage

Every webpage is different, but there are some common elements you'll find on most pages. For example, the page might have the main content in the middle of the page, with ads on the left or right side. Almost every webpage will have some sort of navigation bar that lets you go to other parts of the website. By learning about some of these basic parts, you'll be able to find the information you're looking for more quickly.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different parts of a webpage.

edit hotspots

Mobile webpages

If you're viewing a webpage on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, you may notice that it has a simpler layout. This is because many sites have mobile versions that are optimized for smaller screens. The website will automatically detect what type of device you're using, and it will display the version that's best suited for that device.

The example below shows the same webpage we looked at above, except it's viewed on an iPhone. The header is now much smaller to make room for the main content (although the mobile site will require a lot more scrolling to read the article).

Tips for reading webpages

When you're reading a book, you might start at the top of the page and read every word until you get to the bottom. But with a webpage, this usually isn't the best way to read. Because webpages have a lot of information you don't need, your job is to find the relevant information without getting distracted by everything else.

Watch the video below to learn basic strategies for reading a webpage.

You can also use the following tips on almost any webpage to help you find what you're looking for.

  • Locate the main content. This is usually the most relevant part of the page. On most pages it's easy to find, although you may sometimes have to scroll down to find it.
  • Make sure you're on the right webpage. If you don't see any relevant information, use the navigation bar or search box to find the page you're looking for. You can also conduct a Google search to find other websites.
  • Don't read every word. With most websites, you can skim the page to find what you're looking for. To read faster, you can just read the first sentence of each paragraph.
  • Use headings to help you skim the page. Many online articles have a heading at the beginning of each section. If the heading doesn't seem to be relevant, you can simply scroll down to the next heading.
  • Ignore ads. Ads are often embedded in an article or disguised as links. They may look like they're relevant, but they usually won't help you find what you're looking for.
  • Use the Back button. If you've clicked a link that isn't helpful, you can go back to the previous page by clicking your browser's Back button. If the link was opened in a new window or tab, you may need to close it instead of using the Back button.

Finding a specific word on a page

If you know exactly what you're looking for, you may not have to skim the page. Just hold down Ctrl (or Command if you're using a Mac) and then press F to open up the Find toolbar. You can then type the word or phrase you're looking for to skip to that part of the page. This is especially helpful for long articles.

Try this!

Go to the Purdue OWL: Email Etiquette page.

  • Where is the main content?
  • See how quickly can you find information on this page about attachments.
  • Where would you click if you wanted to learn how to write an essay?

Go to Time's article on bees and pesticides.

  • Where is the main content?
  • Which parts of the page contain ads?
  • Which parts of the page link to other pages on
  • According to this webpage, what type of pesticide was found in 75% of honey samples?