Ever surf to a website where the page seems to scroll down infinitely – you can’t find the information you’re looking for and you have no idea what to click? Then what happens? Most likely, you’ll leave the website for one that is easier on the eyes and brain.
Web surfers are impatient people. They don’t want to read War and Peace on a website. People don’t read websites the way they read books. They scan for words and pictures that match their goals. Verbose link labels, instructions and messages slow people down and cause important information to be overlooked.
Long and complicated sentences are not a sign of professionalism. They just show that the author doesn’t care about the readers or has spent too much time with a thesaurus. In many cases, wordy text is simply not read. If surfers have to labor to understand your web pages, they will go away to find an easier site than yours.
This does not mean you cannot have lots of content; just make sure to organize and segregate it properly.
Make Your Content User-Friendly
People want to be able to glance at website content to quickly find what they are looking for. Make it easy for them by following these guidelines:
- Use clear headings to direct people to what they’re looking for
- Break sequences and lists into bullet points to make scanning easier
- Include a prominent “call to action” that lets people know what you want them to do (“Call us today!”)
- Shorten text where you can to eliminate “fluff” and marketing jargon
Using what you learned in English class is not enough for a successfulwebsite. Studies show that the less text the better the conversion rate and the better the retention level. A good starting point is to circle every adjective and adverb and ask if they are necessary. If not, strike them from your copy.
Good writing uses verbs and nouns for the heavy lifting, not modifiers. Similarly, check every subjective claim you have for evidence. If you can’t back it up with numbers, you force people to spend their energy trying to filter out the marketing-speak from what is valid and useful information.
Organize your site from the general to the specific, putting the most important information “above the fold” as newspaper reporters say. Online, this means not making your prospect scroll down to understand what each page is about.
Save the details for the pages they can link to. If you keep the big picture where visitors will look first, you’ll get your message across even if they do not read the full content.
Just like wave surfers want the perfect wave, web surfers want just the right amount of information to carry them forward through your site. So remember, more isn’t always better. Size matters.
Join the discussion 3 Comments
I wanted to comment on your statement about how college English doesn’t prepare you for writing for the web!
With the attention span forever shortening and massive competition, every single word must count, and convey concise information in easy to understand language – the exact opposite of college papers 🙂
Great article with clear pointers I know I can immediately put to good use.
Thanks for sharing.
Thank you too Dee! Good insight.
That’s interesting, Dee, I was just having this conversation with someone recently, which is that I get the sense “college education” is stuck in a 100 year old mindset and really needs to evolve to address a changing world. Especially one with very short attention spans! I well remember days of writing essays with length requirements – hardly mattered that you were throwing in a bunch of junk just to hit a word limit. These days, how many times do we get pounded over the head with “quality content, quality content, quality content”! Most times you can say more by saying less.