A practical summary of the user experience of online content. Top tips to get your content to be more readable by users online.
How user experience impacts on online content
User behaviour online is key to writing online content which will be used. Users’ needs and profiles need to be considered. The fact that user’s don’t read online, they scan, affects how you need to write your content. Important factors about how you present your content online, such as the legibility and layout, also impact the user experience of content, and how much it will be read.
Who are your readers?
Writing your content for your readers is the first step to getting content which will be used.
- Who are your audience?
- What mode are they in – are they researching wanting more information and detail, or are they trying to quickly select ‘the right one’, so the name, number and image?
- What are their goals for reading your content?
- What do you want them to do with your content?
- What is the context of use, will they be looking at your content on a mobile phone on the train, or in front of a computer at work or at home?
- Are your audience novices or experts when it comes to your subject?
- Are there any special considerations you need to make for your audience and how they can use your content, such as lower literacy or being elderly?
How impatient are your readers online?
Readers online are characteristically impatient. They look at content to get the gist of it as fast as possible, they don’t read it word for word, like they would a book. They are far more impulsive as it takes little effort for them to click away from your page.
How do readers read online?
Your readers don’t read online. They scan. They typically look first to the left-right and then top bottom down the left hand side, so the main things they pick up need to be at the top and then down the left-hand side. Give your users what they are looking for asap.
For more about online reading behaviour see this useful article by Jakob Nielsen:
How does Legibility affect online content?
Legibility affects how easily your users will be able to see and quickly digest your content. Here are some top tips:
- Arial or Verdana fonts work better than serif fonts like Times.
- 11 point minimum font size.
- Black text on a white background, avoid patterned backgrounds.
- Capitals ‘shout’ aggressively.
- Underlining = links to users.
- Italics are harder to read.
How does text alignment impact online content?
Left align (to help F-pattern scanning readers) text. Don’t fully justify your text alignment.
How else can I break up content to make it easier to scan online?
Bulleted lists not paragraphs of copy help to make online content more readable. This is even easier to read keep to a couple of lines of text at the most and then bullet list:
- Bullet lists are helpful
- Bullet lists are good
- Bullet lists are easier to scan
- Bullet lists will be read more by users online
- Bullet lists are better online content.
What are some other key Layout tips?
- Use headings and sub-headings to break up your content.
- Group content under headings and sub-headings.
- Bold – use sparingly to highlight keywords and points.
Summary of good user experience of online content
The attached diagram above summarises some key points to remember when writing content for the Internet.