Who reads websites?

No one.

Not any more.


Online reading must be simple because:

You inhale information.

You rarely swoon or stay.

You’re either a seeker or skimmer.

You flit about like a butterfly.

You momentarily rest and move on.

You’ve spied another pretty thing.

Your eyes bleed information.

Your time is limited.

Your attention span has shrunk.

Short sentences work better.

Yes, really.


20 ways to make people read your website:


1.  Chunk it:

Break the text into chunks – 2-3 sentences, per paragraph.

Only one point per paragraph.


2.  White space:

Gives the eyes a rest.

Even seconds of downtime helps the reader absorb the information.


3.  Subheadings:

Summarise or highlight the most important information.

Make it easy to jump from section to section and get the main points.


4.  Lists, bullets and tables:

Make text scannable and add white space.

Help the flow of the site.


5.  Bullet key benefits:

Makes them easier to absorb.

State them up front.


6.  Bold and italics:

Use sparingly for more effect.

Help to highlight important and key information.

Italics emphasises words.


7.  Never underline:

Only links should be underlined.

Use bold, italics and subheads instead.


8.  Space, punctuation, capitals and symbols:

Aid the absorption of information.

Lead the reader where you want (eg ellipse … ) or  along em dash (- ).

Overuse (eg exclamation mark !) yells at your reader, so use them sparingly.


9.  Font types and size changes:

Too many different sizes confuse, detract and lower absorption.

Keep body copy all one size.

Headlines one size and subheads slightly smaller.

Maximum two font types.


10.  Readability level:

8th grade level.

Use links to explain details.

Explain things simply.

The simpler the text the more likely it is to be read.


11.  Be humble:

Don’t talk down to your audience.

Talk to the reader as an equal.

Respect what the audience knows.


12.  Write it as you say it:

Be conversational.

Not stiff or pompous.

If it’s hard to simplify, sit and talk it through first and then it will be clearer to write.


13.  Remove jargon:

Don’t use language specific to a community, group or industry.

The reader needs to understand your terminology.


14.  Is it a reverse pyramid?

The most important information should be first.

The first two paragraphs are the big idea.

Less important, support information comes later in the text.


15.  Use positive language:

Use words that evoke emotion and create word pictures in people’s heads.

They should picture a problem solved or a better life because of your product.

Avoid negative words and ideas.


16.  Tell stories:

They work. Nothing gets information or an idea across like a story.

People relate to the story concepts in their lives.

Tell stories of how the product has solved the customer (or your) problem.


17.  Paint pictures with words:

They’re remembered far longer than descriptions.

Use analogies, use comparisons, use adjectives.


18.  When you’ve finished writing, close your eyes:

Open them and observe –

a)     The overall look of the page, not the text.

Does it look neat and readable?

Does anything stand out – is that what you want to stand out?

b)     Look at the text.

Scan the subheadings.

If you only read the subheadings, would the page still make the point you want?


19.  Proofread:

It’s vital.

If you’re not confident to do it, pay someone to do it.

Check consistency of spelling, punctuation and abbreviations.

Sloppy copy reflects badly on your reputation.

Errors are distracting and readers miss your message.


20.  Copy is never finished or final:

It’s always a WIP.

Let it rest for a few days.

There are always improvements to be made.


What do you suggest?

Are you a butterfly reader? What makes you slow down and read online?

Image: ajmac

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