The truth is, people usually read less than 20% of content on any given webpage. Why? We are skimmers and prefer to do as little work as possible to find what we need.
Although as writers, it might hurt our feelings to swallow that statistic (at least for those of us who consider ourselves the “creative writing” type), it is important to understand how to create content that is digestible and supports the way our users actually engage with our site.
These 7 tips can help you develop content that is skimmer-friendly:
- Use plain language. The average American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level, so keep it simple. Cut excess words, use positive and active language, and avoid jargon or expressions. Did you know Microsoft Word can check your document for Reading Ease & Grade Level? Try it out, because no one has ever said, “That’s too easy to read!”
- Format your content to support scanning habits. Most of us have an aversion to reading big blocks of text, so break it up by making main points bold, using bulleted lists and infusing numbers when appropriate. (Much like we are with this list!)
- Try using the inverted pyramid. If you lead with the most important content, users can quickly decide if they want to (or need to) read the entire article. If they do stop reading, you’ve already given them what they need to know. Here’s the basic approach:
- Top: Who, what, why, when and where. (Try to answer their primary question here and address the main points by paragraph #2!)
- Middle: Include interesting facts and extra details.
- Bottom: The least important information.
- When writing to sell, readers want to know two things: how it benefits them and how much it will cost them, both financially and timewise. Remember: A feature is NOT a benefit. It’s your job to draw out those conclusions and connect the dots for your reader.
- Be an SEO pro by doing keyword research and creating compelling and relevant content around those terms. Think through your title tags, body content, ALT tags, URL and meta data.
- Don’t forget about mobile! Comprehension is often lower on mobile because users can see less content at once and reading requires more effort due to scrolling. Give extra thought to how and when readers will be accessing your content. Try using summaries, shorter paragraphs and narrow lists.
- Make sure you understand what your users want. The best way to find out if you are doing it right is through user testing, A/B testing or implementing a web survey.
And now the real question: did you finish the whole article? If you did, share your favorite tip in the comments and we will send you a piece of Ascedia swag for defying the statistics!