Writing on the web is not the same as writing for print. Understand this rule above everything, and your content will be effective, whether it’s in blog posts, landing sites, or product pages.
The screen size of your devices and user activity on the Internet are the driving forces behind this disparity. Web copy, unlike print, comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the device your audience is using at the time.
When you consider the sheer amount of information available in the billions of pages indexed by Google, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You can’t flick through the pages of your favorite book or newspaper and feel satisfied as you can with print.
This Article Covers:
- How Do People Read on the Internet?
- Formatting Techniques
- Concrete Tips for Making Your Web Material More Reader-Friendly and Legible
- What Language Should You Use?
How Do People Read on the Internet?
When we mention how people read on the web, we are not referring to e-readers like the Kindle. I’m referring to genuine online reading, which might take the form of a desktop, mobile, or app. This difference is important since e-readers, such as the Kindle, have no distractions and effectively serve like books in your hands.
As you’ll see, information overload is a major factor in why people read the web differently.
First and foremost, the idea that people actually read on the internet—as in, read every word of text as if you were reading these words—must be addressed. On the internet, people do not read. Instead, they skim through the copy.
In famous research from 1997, the Nielsen Norman Group’s UX experts discovered this earth-shattering truth. Web readers scan the lines of text rather than reading them.
In 2020, the Nielsen Norman Group conducted follow-up research to determine if web reading habits had changed in 23 years…and it has not. While people read in various ways depending on their cultural backgrounds—for example, western vs. eastern sensibilities—scanning behavior is as powerful as ever.
Why is this Happening?
Many developments in devices and technology have happened throughout almost three decades of commercial Internet use.
To be sure, online reading habits have changed a little to fit the increased complexity of information as presented to us by Google search engine results pages (SERPs) and websites. However, a lot of things haven’t changed.
It’s all about being overwhelmed. Right now, your internet readers must filter through more information than ever before. They want to find the information they’re looking for in the quickest time possible, with the least amount of friction. The most effective method is to scan material rather than reading it for minutes or hours.
As a result, your material must be presented to your viewers in the manner in which they like to consume it. This solution includes a significant amount of formatting.
You should present your content to your online users in a frictionless manner given that you know they will largely scan it. Content that is clumped together is the last thing readers who don’t read every word want.
Without appropriate formatting, your material is effectively telling your readers not to read it from the start. Your readers will leave your website if this happens, which is an issue.
To combat this, use reader-friendly formatting in your material. The content on your site should be easy to scan and skim, and users should be able to easily find the information they need.
Here are Some Concrete Tips for Making Your Web Material More Reader-Friendly and Legible:
1. Chunk your Content:
Chunking content refers to break up your content into numerous paragraphs within a webpage or article. Readers appreciate small breaks in the flow of your content, so this makes the material less overwhelming.
2. Use Bullets:
Bullet points to the rescue! Bullet points are useful because they compress vital information into small, easy-to-read phrases or sentences. They also cause your readers’ eyes to focus on them, making it easier for them to find the information they need.
3. Reduce the Length of your Paragraphs:
Your paragraphs should be no more than four or five sentences long. Anything more creates the sense of a long piece of text, which will prevent your readers from continuing to read.
4. Reduce the Length of your Sentences:
It is beneficial to reduce the length of your sentences. This doesn’t mean you should only write in primer language, but it does mean you should avoid compound and complicated phrases as much as possible.
5. Use Photos in your Content:
Images help to break up your material by providing something other than words for your readers to look at. They serve as excellent placeholders while also boosting conversion rates.
What Language Should You Use?
The language you choose to connect with your online readers should be simple, not complicated. Don’t make it childish; instead, use plain, uncomplicated language. People who skim information don’t want to be distracted by jargon or technical terms they’d find in a manual. It has to be accessible.
To Accomplish this, Take the Following Steps:
1. Use the Active Voice in your Text
Using an active voice in your writing makes it more interesting for your readers. The passive voice should only be used in textbooks and technical writing, not in online copy.
2. Use Casual Language
What do you say to your friends and family? Most likely, you don’t address them in a formal manner. Rather, you communicate in a casual manner. To improve readability and legibility, use the same tone across your online writing.
3. Use Language that is Action-Oriented
If you’re writing for the web, you’re undoubtedly hoping for your readers to take action once you’ve informed them. This can take the form of a call to action (CTA) for anything from signing up for an email subscription to making a purchase.
You can produce material that people want to read now that you know how they read online. This is important for several reasons. For starters, you’ll want to make things easier to read and understand for your readers.
Second, you want people to remember more of the information you’re giving them. Finally, you want them to take the right action.
All of these goals may be met by presenting information in an easy-to-read format.