We don’t read web pages. We scan them.

One very difficult part of creating a website is thinking about the content that is going to be making up the site, more specifically the copy. What words do I put into my new website to make users stop and spend some time here?

When discussing this stage with clients, it’s sometime difficult to convey just how important it really is. The owner of the new website is often very passionate and knowledgeable about the product and/or service they provide. Whilst this detail is great for their business, it’s not wonderful for the copy.

We don’t tend to read pages in full like we would do a book, we scan them looking for words or phrases that jump out based on what we’re looking for.

Once we’ve found the information we’re looking for, we might stop and dig a layer deeper to find out more. Even at this point, it is important to keep the content to short paragraphs because it’s difficult to read a lot of text on a screen.

If you’re selling a product or service, it is important to remember this. People are time poor these days so it is vital they can pick out the information they want and act on it. If they scan your page, mental tick-off the things they’re looking for and can easily get in touch you’re onto a winner.

I’m not a copywriter, but I understand how important it is to employ the services of a good one. ­ Here are a few tips I’ve learn’t over the years:

  • Introductory texts are usually too long; what is on this page? Why should I want to read it?
  • If you’re writing copy for the first time; write your draft, halve it, then halve it again
  • Highlight keywords
  • Use bulleted lists and sub-headings

If you’re looking for more information on writing for the web, check out Jakob Nielson’s 1997 Alertbox.

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