You’ve probably found yourself starting to read an article off your computer screen and found after 2 or 3 lines your eyes and mind are starting to jump around on the page.
It’s difficult keeping your attention on the one sentence. Research has found that web readers read in an ‘F’ pattern; that is they read right across the line for the first 2/3 lines then scan down the first few words on the left, then, thinking they’re missing something they’ll shoot out across the page again until they realise it’s taking too long… so they’ll end up scanning down the first words on the left again – literally making an ‘F’ pattern with the path their eyes are taking. (Read full article)
Some studies say that you have 8 seconds to grab a reader’s attention and if you’ve not got it they’ll move off to another page, or worse, another site.
When preparing written content for your website, it is vital that you keep in mind that readers have a very, very short attention span.
Below are some tips for writing content for the web.
1. Write short sentences
Sentences should be as concise as you can make them. Use only the words you need to get the essential information across.
2. Write relevant content
It may be tempting to write about your latest favourite book, but if it doesn’t relate to your site or page topic, leave it out. Web readers want information, and unless the page is information relating to the book, they really won’t care.
3. Put conclusions at the beginning
Front-load your content – this means putting the conclusion first, followed by the what, how, where, when and why.
Think of an inverted pyramid when you write. Get to the point in the first paragraph, and then expand upon it, so readers can:
- Quickly scan through the opening sentence
- Instantly understand what the paragraph is about
- Decide if they want to read the rest of the paragraph or not
4. Write for your audience
- Avoid slang or jargon – you can put readers off if you overdo the jargon on the assumption that the reader is familiar with it.
- Avoid complex sentence structures
- Use active ahead of passive words – ‘We won the award’ is shorter and easier to comprehend than, ‘The award was won by us’
5. Write only one idea per paragraph
Web pages need to be concise and to-the-point. People don’t read web pages, they scan them, so having short, succint paragraphs is better than long rambling ones.
6. Write for search engines
Home page content should have a minimum of 300 words for good optimisation and must contain the following:
Your brand name
- Your key words
- Your geography
- Your top product/services
1. Headings and Subheadings
Use headings and subheadings so readers can tell immediately if a paragraph is relevant to them. Make the subheadings descriptive. 2. Use lists/bullet points
2. Lists are preferable to long paragraphs because they:
- Allow users to read the information vertically rather than horizontally
- Are easier to scan
- Are less intimidating
- Are usually more succinct
- But… keep your list to 7-8 items, too many and you’ll have lost the reader
3. Avoid writing long pages of scrolling text
- Break it up with images
- Or bullet points
4. Make your links part of the copy
- Links are another way Web readers scan pages.
- They stand out from normal text, and provide more cues as to what the page is about.