Writing for the web is a unique beast, not in the least because most web content is not read. Most people scan for the information they are seeking, search for keywords and skim looking for relevant headings and lists. People read websites differently, so understanding how people view websites is important when you are creating web content.
When you visit websites, particularly if you have found the website via a web search, you most likely do at least a few of the following:
- Read the bold text first
- Look at the images, graphs and photographs ahead of reading any text
- Check the headings and subheadings
- Scan through to find bulleted or numbered lists
- Read the introduction, then skip to the conclusion to find the key takeaways
- Do a quick scan over, then bookmark it for later
- Watch any videos embedded on the page
Web users generally leave web pages somewhere in the first 10-20 seconds, so your website doesn’t have long to grab your visitors’ attention. Your website design and web content formatting needs to work hand-in-hand to clearly communicate your offering within that time frame.
So, if people are merely glancing at your website – how do you quickly and effectively get your message across, while still providing enough substance for the few that will come to research and gather more in-depth information?
Visitors to your website will typically only read 20% of your web content. When people visit your website, they are looking for the quick answer, the right information or to make a fast decision. Writing with this in mind means you should make sure they can find what they’re looking for fast, and are able to share it easily.
We know most people will skim web content, but we also know that the more visitors engage with web content, the more likely they are to convert. As a business, this means you need to ensure your website is suitable for both skimmers and readers. So how do you set about achieving that?
1. Keep your content simple
- Use short, descriptive headlines and subheadings
- Highlight, use bold or italics
- Make good use of whitespace
- Use bulleted or numbered lists
- Put important information at the beginning of your paragraphs
- Keep your text aligned left to improve readability
2. Don’t forget to write for SEO
- Answer questions you anticipate your potential customers will ask
- Discuss one keyword (or topic) per page
- Include relevant links to other pages and sites
- Use descriptive link text, not simple call-to-action text such as “click here” or “sign up”.
3. Entice your visitors to engage
- Include visual elements, such as relevant images or videos
- Readers love colour
- Use pull quotes when you can
- High quality, useful, helpful and informative content provides your readers with substance.
- Avoid lengthy sales pitches.
Writing simple content that appeals to both skimmers and readers is difficult, and sometimes pleasing everyone is impossible. It is okay to write different content for different audiences, particularly if your website contains blogs. Sometimes people are after a quick answer, and other times they require a deeper read. When tackling the more technical, two specifically targeted articles will most likely perform better than one article that tries to be all things to all people.
The key for writing for skimmers is found in the formatting: visually appealing content, set out in easy-to-absorb chunks, should both draw interest and be easy-to-read at a glance. By adopting these easy practices, you will find visitors to your website who begin by simply skimming and scanning are more likely to become readers.
If you want learn more about how to improve the design of your website to grow your business, contact us.