According to CWsites over at Mind Eye Web Design, 95% of web users do not read 80% of your content. With these statistics already working against you, how can you improve your content to ensure that readers are getting the best user experience from your site?
1. Break It Up
When you have large chunks of text that run the risk of blending together, break them into relevant paragraphs to make it easier on the eyes. When reading on a computer, it is very rare that your user is concentrating solely on what they are reading. They usually have IM clients running, blogs to look at, children screaming, you name it. By breaking your text into paragraphs you are making it easier for them to find their place again if they have to turn away from the screen.
Breaking your content into small chunks also makes it less intimidating and will appear to consume less time.
2. Use Sub Headings
Most people scan content looking for what is relevant to them. Sub headings can be a huge blessing for people short on time. Using them allows readers to scan through and find the section that they would find most interesting and/or helpful. Make sure your sub headings are relevant to the content below them.
3. Remove Anything That You Do Not Need
Overly flowery or verbose language, though great in poetry, is not advisable for web content.
Be specific, direct and write only what is needed.
“If you would like to be granted access to our fabulous area containing supportive information and advice, we request that you gently depress the button on your external mouse device”
Isn’t quite as user friendly as a link that just says:
4. Use Stephen King’s 10% Rule
Stephen King’s book “On Writing” is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to learn about writing. One of his best tips is that your “Second Draft = First Draft – 10%“. So after you have written your content, check your word count. Now go back through and eliminate 10% of what you have written. This will make it tighter and more concise.
5. Make Sure the Most Important Material Stands Out
If there is something within your content that you feel should be emphasized, take the time to bold, italicize, or pull it out into a sidebar. Make it incredibly easy for users to pull out the information that they need, using visual cues where possible. This, along with sub headings, is the key to creating content that users can scan.
6. Make Sure Your Font is Readable
Whereas ornate font may make you stand out, if your users are unable to read your content, there is no point having it. A good sans serif, like Helvetica, is easy on the eyes and won’t make your readers strain to decipher your information. Unique fonts work well in banners or graphics, but the actual content should be simple and not tiny.
7. Summarize and Conclude
This applies mostly to articles. It’s an old school essay trick, but it’s important to introduce people to a concept and then summarize it at the end. This allows readers to make sure they have discovered the right information, and then later to be sure they got the point. When summarizing, keep it short and to the point.
8. Use Links Within Your Content to Direct Advanced Users
If you’re covering something in your content that is initially simple, but has an advanced option, use links to direct your more advanced users rather than scaring off the more basic users with too much technical information. This also keeps your content from becoming too bulky. This also works as a way to draw advanced users deeper into your site.
9. Make Sure People Know Where to Ask Questions
Sometimes you can’t cover everything in your content. Just in case your content isn’t up to scratch, make sure you provide readers with a way that they can contact you for more information or clarification. Either have a link to a valid email address, or integrate a contact form into your site. For a great free contact form, try Wufoo.
10. Update Your Content Frequently
Make a point of regularly checking through your content to ensure that it is still relevant and hasn’t become stale. If you have changed any policies or procedures, or if you have timely information that is no longer relevant, be sure to edit as needed. I would advise checking your content at least once a month, depending on the nature of your site. This also gives you the opportunity to look at it another time and check for clarity.
11. Proof Your Content Thoroughly
Take the time to proof your content for typing and grammatical errors. It helps to read it out loud so that you can see where any issues with flow might occur. Typos can be incredibly distracting to your users. Try and get a second pair of eyes to go over your work before it goes live.
Recommended Resources for Writing Good Content:
Do you have any other great tips for keeping your content more usable? Just let us know in the comments!