On the webpage: reading, words and white space

I don’t remember much about Lisa-Marie Presley's life other than her grungy black eyeliner and troubled first marriage. Her next husband was Micheal Jackson. And that left us all scratching their heads for a second.

"And..." you ask? Well, she's famous but for the most part she kept out of the spotlight. We only noticed her when she got it wrong. The way you offer your words on the page is the same. No-one arrives on your page and thinks, "Hmm, impressive formatting!" 

 No-one notices how you use white space and thinks, ‘Such strategic use of white space. Simply marvelous!

No-one notices how you use white space and thinks, ‘Such strategic use of white space. Simply marvelous!

But when you make it harder for people to 'do it' online, they notice. Their reactions will vary but it usually ends with a frown as they leave your website unsatisfied.

Allocate headings

Heading 1, Heading 2 etc - Use the drop down box called ‘Style’ in your editing tool bar. Just making headings bigger and bold isn't enough. Allocating a heading using the website’s ‘style’ helps search engine crawlers and assistive technologies understand what is important on the page.

Don't manipulate this by over stuffing key words in your headings, your ranking in search results will suffer. Keep it natural and descriptive, with a focus on your audience. 

Quality content

Here are the main tactics you should use when writing for the web:

  • get to the point quickly – in the paragraph and in your sentences

  • write in everyday language

  • use small paragraphs and short sentences

  • if you offer more than two options, use dot points

  • stick to the topic

  • leave people with somewhere else to go on your site

  • link to relevant and trustworthy information

 Get to the point quickly - remove the fluff from your sentences.

Get to the point quickly - remove the fluff from your sentences.

Page design

White space doesn't have to be white. But use the space on the page to create room around the words that are important. Your reader has a short attention span so white space makes it easier to scan and pick out the 'must know' content.

Watch this video on eye tracking research by Normal Neilson Group. Then edit your content using the layered cake strategy to help your audience find and read the content on your page.

Key words

If you are writing naturally, you should already be using the key words and phrases for the topic. But sometimes we are too close to see it and our jargon sneaks in. Or some people think they can con Google and achieve a first page result by stuffing key words throughout your text. Maybe in 1996...

Try analysing keywords first. The words the audience is writing into Google's search bar are probably not the same as your industry jargon or your witty play on words.

 It’s hard to read a wall of text. People have better things to do

It’s hard to read a wall of text. People have better things to do

Next write. Then check that the appropriate key words appear naturally in:

  • the page title

  • the main text close to the top of the page - key words will help describe the page content

  • at least a couple of times on the rest of the page - this can include variations and sometimes headings but remember to keep it natural

  • in alt text for your images - where you describe your image for screenreaders

  • in the URL path - the little section after your domain name - eg www.socialanimals.com.au/words-and-whitespace (and use dashes between the words, not underscores or capitals).

And now I will leave you with somewhere else to go.

Karen CruseComment