Reading content on a webpage or blog isn’t like reading from a book or magazine. Studies have proved that we read and absorb information differently when reading it off a computer screen than we do when reading from a piece of paper.
One of the key differences is that we read online content a lot slower. About 25% slower, which is a significant difference. This is because reading from a screen places a greater strain on the eyes, forcing us to slow down.
Another difference is that we tend to scan online copy rather than reading it word-for-word. This is partly because of the strain that reading every word would place on the eyes, and partly because we’re impatient when we’re reading online. Sometimes we’re in a rush. Sometimes we’re reading something a bit dull out of necessity, and we just want to find the essential bits of info. And we always know that if the website doesn’t show us the information we’re looking for just by scanning the copy, there are thousands of other sites that will. We don’t need to read every word on a website, and we certainly can’t be bothered.
So how can you tailor your copy for the online reader? How can you ensure that people find the information on your site just by scanning it? There are a few tried and tested techniques:
Bullet points. A reader’s eyes are naturally drawn to them first, so they’re great for outlining the most essential points on a page.
Short sentences. Easier to read, and there’s more chance that people will read the majority of the words in the sentence and actually absorb the information.
Lots of headings and subheadings. They create signposts to guide people through the page. Plus they break the text up – it’s much easier to absorb four little 100-word paragraphs than a one big 400-word chunk of text.
Simple language. Don’t use a three syllable word if a one syllable word does the job just as well.
There are dozens of other techniques, but these are four of the most effective. By breaking up your paragraphs, keeping it snappy and putting your most important points in bullet lists, you’ve got a much greater chance of your customers actually absorbing the information on your site.