How to Write ‘Scannable’ Web Content

Need to improve your web content?

  • How much words should I put on a web page?
  • How do I present the material?
  • How do I know that anyone reads it?

Research suggests that users don’t read on the web –  they scan.

This means that when you are converting documents to the web, you need to make them as ‘scannable’ as possible.

Users scan webpages.

With this in mind, we’ve prepared some guidelines when writing for the Web:

  1. Reduce the word count as much as possible without losing the article’s meaning. Short pages tend to be read more than long unwieldy tomes. Readers have an aversion to the Page Down button on their keyboard; most will not work their way down a page. They prefer short, snappy pages.
  2. Keep one idea per paragraph. This makes it easy to read and navigate. In the reader’s mind they’ll think, “this paragraph is about this, while this other paragraph is about that”, and enjoy scanning the article. If you bury multiple ideas inside a paragraph, they’ll resent it and go elsewhere.
  3. Use bullet lists, bold the important text and put in sub-headings to highlight the main points.
  4. Use an “inverted pyramid” style so that the main points are the top of the page and the rest of the story sits underneath it. Classic journalism writing style!
  5. Use oodles of White Space to present the text more clearly. White space conveys space, openness and confidence. In contrast, pages that are cramped with small fonts and dense blocks of text appear tight-fisted and miserly — as if the designer wouldn’t share his space with the reader.
  6. Remember that most visitors will read only one or two pages of your site—after that they gone. So, it’s critical that you catch their attention immediately and offer clean uncluttered text that will enjoy reading.

And…

Most readers are under pressure to find content quickly. Many are ‘watching the clock’ and have little patience with muddled material.

Just to recap.

Rather than pouring an entire 8 page report into one large HTML page, break it up into smaller, more digestible chunks. Use lots of headings, bullet lists and short sentences.

By preparing content that can be skimmed over, readers will appreciate your content and are more likely to return.