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Write To Be Scanned

The debate about online (digital) versus offline (hardcopy) content rages on.

And for those in the publishing industry it creates a dilemma.Indeed, anyone trusted with  transforming his or her companys source material to the web will probably have chewed their fingernails to the quick when mulling over tricky issues such as:


  • How much material do I put on the website?

  • How do I present the material?

  • How do I know that anyone reads it?

Recent research points out something quite interesting. It identified that users dont read on the web, they tend to scan.


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


Users prefer to scan webpages.


With this in mind, weve prepared some guidelines when writing for the Web:


  • Reduce the word count as much as possible without losing the articles 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. 
  • Keep one idea per paragraph. This makes it easy to read and navigate. In the readers mind theyll think, ¡ˇăthis paragraph is about this, while this other paragraph is about that¡ˇŔ, and enjoy scanning the article. If you bury multiple ideas inside a paragraph, theyll resent it and go elsewhere.  
  • Use bullet lists, bold the important text and put in sub-headings to highlight the main points.
  • 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!
  • 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 wouldnt share his space with the reader.    

Remember that most visitors will read only one or two pages of your siteafter that they gone. So, its critical that you catch their attention immediately and offer clean uncluttered text that will enjoy reading.




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


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.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts on this? Drop me a line at ivan at klariti dot com

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