It’s not hard to see. Today’s society thrives on a hustle-bustle mentality. “Grab-n-go” information is at our fingertips- whether it be sitting at our home computers, or navigating our smartphones on the train. This easy access to information via the Internet is a dream come true for today’s customer, but can be a pain in the behind for businesses. It’s become all too clear in recent days that the public reads a webpage differently than they read a book. The Technological Citizen reported that the advent of Google and other web-based services has changed the way we think. Especially in regards to how we read online. You may not know it, but even you have probably grown accustomed to reading online content in an “F-shaped” pattern- whereas you scan the top of the page and middle and then scroll down to the bottom surfing for key points. So how should your business tackle this “skim” reading? Here are a few tips to help you out:
Know What You Want to Say
Let’s face it. When a customer hops onto a business website, they’re not expecting to read a book- so why give them one? When you’re in the planning stages of content to add to your website or blog, have a good idea what you want to say. Don’t bog your content down with too many details. After all, if the customer wants to know more they’ll ask. Your main goal is to get your main messages across effectively before the customer closes the window. Remember, you’re not writing a novel. With that said…
Headlines and Headings
Who doesn’t love a great headline? Sometimes I’ve read an article simply for its eye-catching title. But don’t stop there. Separate your thoughts in your content by placing headings before each section begins. (Just like I did in this article- fancy, eh?) Unlike a novel-reader, online readers do better reading in chunks, so play to their intrigue!
Just as you did with the headings, break those paragraphs up! The rule is: one thought to a paragraph. When readers are faced with content featuring short broken-up paragraphs, they’re more likely to read it than another document featuring long drawn-out paragraphs. Somehow, it just seems less grueling.
Inverted Pyramid Style
This style is law to most journalists, and if you’ve taken any type of writing class in college you’ve probably heard about it too. The inverted pyramid style is simply an easier-to-follow layout for content. Much like a pyramid set on its point, the content starts with the most general and important facts first (the base) and as the writer slides down the pyramid they insert more extraneous detail until the end (the appex). The benefit of writing like this is so that you’re reader gets the majority of what they absolutely need to know first- thus, if they leave bored halfway-through they already have your main points.
I’m a huge believer in bullet-points. Why? They’re a breath of fresh air in content that’s written in standard paragraph form. Whenever you have any type of list, use and abuse your bullet points. Your readers’ eyes will be drawn to these “stand-apart” icons.
When you’re writing for the web, most of the standard rules for writing can be thrown out the window. This can be both frustrating and exciting for the writer, but using your creativity on the web has been known to be powerful… so just go for it! One way of doing this is using bolded words. Whenever you want to really get a point across, hit that “bold” button. Just like bullet points, bolded words attract readers’ eyes like flies to yellow sticky-paper.
Read an article on a popular news site, you’ll probably notice the content is rife with links. This is the fabulous part about online writing- using links to back up your points! It’s like writing a paper but not having to sweat out about the appendix. Sweep in the link, and keep on chugging away. Don’t want to fully explain something? Keep it short and add a link. If the reader is still interested, trust that they’ll click it.
So you’re probably asking why I’m just now touching on pictures/graphics. To be honest, there is an over-use of graphics and pictures in web content. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, just know when and where to use them- preferably sparingly and strategically. Too much web content features pictures just stuffed into the paragraphs, breaking up the message as a whole. While the picture may be lovely, it’s distracting to the reader. And if you have too many pictures or graphics, it may look to the reader that you have nearly 3 pages of content, and they’ll move on- even though you may have had only 2 paragraphs of actual content!
Comments are really up to your own preference. Though they can create a great idea-sharing community on your webpage, they can also become hard to manage. (Remember, anyone can comment and anything can be said on the Internet). If you feel that you’re up to the task of managing and filtering a comment feed, then it could be a beneficial way ending to your page’s content. You can also set restrictions on who can or cannot comment, though this is sometimes time-consuming. Though if you decide comments aren’t for you, never fear! It won’t hurt your ratings, it’s just an added bonus. Photo Credit