Writing Effective Content For A Positive User Experience
December 14, 2011
I have read, “95% of web users do not read 80% of your content” (Seven Commandments of User Experience, by Minds Eye Web Design) and couldn’t agree more. With these odds stacked against you, you’ve got to be on the ball when delivering your online content and committed to creating the best user experience possible for your reader.
Be Sure To Use Sub Headings
Sub headings are a lifesaver for people in a rush. Consider the fact that most people will scan your website or blog looking for specific information. By using sub headings you will give your reader the opportunity to quickly find the information they’re seeking. Ensure that your sub headings are concise and descriptive of the content to follow without being too wordy.
Remove Superfluous Content
Overly descriptive language and run on sentences can create confusion for your reader and oftentimes deter them from digging further into your website. When writing your content, ensure that you are specific, direct and only offering what is essential to making your point.
Make The Most Important Information Stand Out
Remembering that readers will scan the pages of your website for specific information rather than reading the entire page word for word brings us to our next tip. When offering information that should be emphasized, be sure to do just that. Making use of bold, italics, pull quotes or graphical elements is a surefire way to grab the reader’s attention and drive a point home.
Offer Links Within Your Content For Advanced Users
If your content starts off too technical or advanced for the average reader, you risk scaring them off right from the start. A good rule of thumb is to start off simple, but offer links for more advanced readers to jump ahead to the meat and potatoes. This is also an excellent way to urge people to dig deeper into your site.
Keep Your Content Up To Date
No one wants to read a website with stale content. We’re all in too much of a rush to waste our precious time reading something we already know or that has become out-dated. Read through your content periodically to ensure that you are offering current and relevant information to your readers.
Make Sure Your Content Is Readable
Not everyone has been trained in proper typography, but most of us have remember the basics from elementary school. On top of what you already may know, here are a few extra pointers to remember:
- Break up large portions of body text so that you don’t overwhelm your reader. Seeing a few short paragraphs on a page is much more inviting than a full page of text.
- Despite what you may have heard, there should be only ONE space following a period before beginning a new sentence.
- Most people read in the classic “Z Pattern”. That means that we start in the top left corner of a page and scan left to right moving down the page. The optimal line-length for text is approximately 86 characters. Any more than that and you’re making it more difficult for your reader to scan across the page and jump down to the next line.
- Line-height (also called leading) is crucial. You don’t want to crowd your type and make it difficult to distinguish the words.
We all love being a little different from the crowd, especially when we’re trying to draw attention. Making use of ornate or overly active fonts can do just that, but keep in mind that these fonts should be used sparingly. A headline or pull quote can sometimes benefit from a unique font, but using these funky fonts for body copy is a big mistake. If your reader has to struggle or make an extra effort to decipher your content, you will most often lose their interest. Be sure to set your body copy in a clean and easy-to-read font.
Summarize And Conclude
This should still be ringing in your ears from high school. There is a reason this method of writing was drilled into us as students – it works! When presenting ideas and information to your readers it’s always best to offer your argument and then summarize your points in conclusion. Be sure to keep your summary short and concise to maximize its lasting effect.
Double Check… And Triple Check
We’re all guilty of it; rushing something out the door without giving it a second read through or having someone else take a quick peak. There’s nothing more distracting to your reader than encountering typos in your content. Be sure to read, and reread your content to avoid these situations. It often helps to read your content out loud and get a sense of the conversation you’re ultimately having with your reader. Don’t forget the beauty of online content is that it’s never final. You’ve always got a chance to make corrections!