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Embrace the Scroll: Breaking Down Content for Real People

  • keyweb
  • Aug 04, 2016

While blocks of text explaining every detail of a process or a service would undoubtedly be informative, they can also be incredibly boring. Let’s take explaining tree removal, for example:

“A hurricane just blew through your beloved backyard, and you look out the window to find that an old, decrepit oak tree took a nosedive into your sod. Your first thought: how am I going to move this thing? First, you’ll need to gather your equipment. Goggles and gloves are necessary to cover the delicate skin on your hands and face, and closed-toed shoes are a must to avoid any pedal incidents. A chainsaw will be incredibly helpful in cutting the burly trunk in haulable pieces, and depending on the size of the tree, you’ll need rope, a ladder and maybe a few buddies. Next, you have to determine which way the tree is leaning to figure out what will go down once you start sawing into it. Is it alive or dead? Live wood will be much more difficult to get through, so plan your time accordingly blah blah blah…”

All of the above information paraphrased from the ever-informative treeremoval.com.

Question- did you make it to the end of that? If yes, I salute you, although I did try to throw a little storytelling in there to grab your attention. If no (or maybe; I understand the noncommittal), please consult the following points.

Content should be:

Scannable- Without large chunks of text taking up an intimidating amount of space on the page, users will get through the content quickly. Scanning is all the rage nowadays since everyone is busy all of the time, or just looking for a quick scroll.

Informational- Leave the cute fluffy stuff at home with your dog (or cat, I don’t discriminate). Content should be information-rich and not full of unnecessary words.  Also, “very” is an unnecessary word; you won’t miss it.

Brief- Keep content short without being stingy; a paragraph should be kept to about three to four sentences. Lean writing will take your content much further. Edit tip: If you can take out words or phrases and your info still has the same meaning, toss ‘em.

How to create such content:

Lists- These fun snippets of information are just that: small and brief. Each point tells users what the most important information is and lets them fill in for context. If you’ve noticed the listicle trend, you’re on point.

Line Breaks- If there’s no way your content will fit into a list, embrace the white space. Putting a breather in between chunky content will let the user regroup before forging on.

Infographics- Its name suggests its meaning: information within a graphic. They’re like little bubbles full of content that could be in a list, but presented whimsically in comparison to plain text.

Young handsome businessman with tablet in subway

A few more tips:

Write conversationally- Reading a page full of technical jargon can, of course, be helpful to users. But writing like you’re explaining your services to your grandmother will hit home with a user much faster, and they’ll probably be more likely to remember what you said. A little wit doesn’t hurt, either.

Be creative-  And don’t be afraid to break a couple grammar rules, either. Beginning a sentence with “but” or “because” can be appropriate, unlike in your first grade English class.The easier and more fun the content is to read, the more likely a user will get to the last sentence (or bullet).

Become BFFs with the backspace- Edit, rewrite, edit some more. No content is the best it could be after the first go-round of word vomiting, so please go clean up your mess. Your users will thank you when they’re scrolling through your content on their lunch break.

I’ll close out with a fun health fact: According to kerryr.net, reading on a digital screen is not easy on the eyes. Rich, engaging, scannable content + less eyestrain = win-win. Write on.

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