How To Structure Web-Readable Content

You might know what content your audience wants, but knowing how they’re going to read it is important too. People read web-pages differently than how they read printed materials. If you’re producing content that’s difficult for web-readers to consume it’s likely they’ll find someone else who isn’t. Getting the structure right (as well as the content) will get more of your text read. Here are some key tips on how to structure for web-readers.

Summarise First

Web-readers skim. If they aren’t hooked at the top of the page they probably won’t read on. Summarise what the page is about in the opening paragraph to let web-readers know it’s worth continuing. Make your key points at the top of the page. Many people simply won’t scroll down if they don’t see what they want straight away. Getting this right can make a big difference to your bounce rate.

Use Hierarchical Headings

Use headings and sub-headings to break up your content. Wikipedia pages are great examples of how to do this well. Headings allow readers to skim the page and find the content they are most interested in. It also gives you an opportunity to outline everything the page is about. Short, clear headings will make it easy for web-readers to find what they want quickly.

Use Links for Key Points

Making keywords into links highlights them to web-readers. As web-readers notice that ‘organic toffee’ link they can skip to that paragraph if it’s what they’re looking for. Better still if the link leads to your organic toffee page the next step to them becoming customers is laid out for them. Alternatively, using links to cite your sources or provide additional information is helpful and adds credence to your message. Use links creatively but only legitimately to highlight keywords for web-readers.

Bullet Lists

Bullet lists can make a series of simple points more readable and memorable for web-readers. Web-readers find bullet lists easier to read than the same content in a paragraph. Think carefully about the order of items in your list. Items at the bottom of the list will be recalled better while web-readers are still on the webpage (recency). Items at the top of the list will be recalled better the next day (primacy). As with all web content don’t let your lists get too long. If a list has more than 20 you should think about subdividing it if you can do so in a logical manner.

Short Sentences in Short Paragraphs

Keep sentences simple. Try to make just one point per sentence. Each full stop should be a pause for web-readers to remember just one thing. Clear language and short sentences will increase web-readers’ understanding and retention of your content.

Short Paragraphs are more likely to get read. Try to sum up the paragraph in the first sentence. As web-readers skim the tops of paragraphs this helps them to go straight to the information they want. Additionally, web-readers generally don’t like screen reading. Breaking your content into smaller chunks makes reading it more palatable.

Summary

Amending existing content with a little thought for web-readers can pay dividends online. Simply taking content from your printed materials and copying it to your website rarely gives the best results. The above simple rules about how to structure text should give you a basic idea of how to adapt your text for the web. If you would like specific advice on improving your online presence or you would like to know more about our other services then please contact eSlice today.

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2 Responses to “How To Structure Web-Readable Content”

  1. tattyrathbone Says:

    Really well thought out, thank you – I had never even heard of Recency and Primacy before so you’ve taught me something new.

    I really like the way you explain things – clear and informative!

    • Mark Farrugia Says:

      Tatty,

      Glad you found it useful. The primacy and recency effect can be observed on click through rates of lists of links. All other things being equal the first link in a list will receive the most click throughs. Less intuitively links, links towards the end garner more click throughs than those in the middle.

      Some interesting numbers (and a lot more detail) on the a study about it from Indiana University here: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue2/murphy.html

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