The Inverted Pyramid: Focusing on What’s Important

Picture the scene: It’s a Tuesday evening. You arrive home, open the door and pick up the day’s post. If you’re anything like me, you open the personal cards and letters straight away, and put the bills and bank statements to one side (to be opened after dinner. Or after Corrie. Or maybe tomorrow…).

And then there’s the junk mail. The multitude of letters and leaflets addressed “To the Occupier” and offering “Great Local Deals!!!!”. You probably give this stuff no more than a cursory glance. And if you don’t spot anything that interests you within about two seconds, it’s going in the bin. After all, no one really reads that stuff, do they?

The thing is, you’re bombarded with advertising and marketing on a daily basis. It’s all around you – on TV, in magazines, at bus stops, and on the doormat when you get home. There’s so much of the stuff that you’re only going to pay attention to an advert if it:

  • Immediately shows you that it’s offering what you need.
  • Does this without irritating you.

It’s the same with websites. Now, I’m not suggesting that your website is the online equivalent of junk mail. But it’s still a form of advertising. And if your website doesn’t immediately tell your audience what it’s about and how it will benefit them, they’re not going to read on.

That’s where the Inverted Pyramid technique comes in.

The Inverted Pyramid

The widest part of the triangle, above the line at the very top, is where you should put the most important information – the stuff that gets your reader’s attention, engages them, and tells them what the page is about.

Less important information should then be added further down the page in descending order of importance, with the very least important at the bottom – the very tip of the triangle.

Benefits of the Inverted Pyramid:

  • Important information at the top of the page – gets the user’s attention
  • Gets your main message across faster
  • Users will understand the essential information even if they don’t read the whole page
  • Less important information at the bottom of the page – doesn’t matter as much if people don’t scroll down

NB – Journalists often try to get the Five Ws and One H (Who, Where, What, When, Why, How) into the top section of the pyramid. While this may not always work for web pages, it’s a really useful checklist to refer to in order to make sure everything in your first few sentences is essential, engaging information.