Six Ways to Make Your Content More Usable

On the web, usability is king. You may be an expert – but if your web content does not follow usability principles, few people may read it.

Growing your web stats could be as simple as using these six techniques to make your content more usable.

Use the Inverted Pyramid

The inverted pyramid style of writing is used in journalism. It basically says that the conclusion – or the most important thing you have to say – should be the very first thing that people see. This is especially true when writing for the web.

You may have heard of the F-shaped pattern. Users’ visual patterns have been tracked in usability testing when they have looked at a web page. The way that users’ eyeballs track a page generally takes the form of an F. That is to say, many users will read the very top line of your content first. Then, they will skim down through the content until they find what they’re looking for.

This is why inverted pyramid writing is so crucial to keeping your users’ attention.

Keep It Short

Some usability tests have shown that most people have short attention spans on the Web. According to some usability tests, users leave a web page after they get to 600 words. If your content is longer than 600 words, users are not going to make it through the entire article. Some users also have problems with sentences longer than 20 words.

Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Have one thought in each paragraph.

Avoid Dense Content

Again, when most users use the web, they read content in a different way than they would in a book. Web users are often just trying to get to the information that they want to know. So having a web page that is packed with paragraph after paragraph of content is not going to attract attention.

Use bullet points for content:

• that is related
• can be put into a list

This creates white space that:

• breaks up a page
• makes it easier to scan

Avoid Jargon

Be as clear as possible. Some people on the web have a low literacy rate. These users will not scan content in ways that users with a high literacy rate would. They will read your article more word-for-word to decipher its meaning. If they hit a technical word without a description of what that word means – they will be gone from your page.

That is true of contractions, too. Some users do not understand them. Avoid them.

Use Visuals Where Appropriate

Remember the old saying “a picture is worth 1,000 words”? If you can show what you are talking about in the form of a graph, visual or descriptive image – do it. Be aware that this content can step into accessibility issues, though. Your site may have users who are blind, deaf or have a mental disability. If so, you will want to make sure that your images and videos are accessible. Reading the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines would be a good starting point.

Show the “How”

Just because you are the expert on something does not mean that people can read your mind. Break down your content in a way that explains the “how” of what you are writing about. Consider, where appropriate, using “how to” posts to explain your processes or research to users.

What do you think? Do you have any other examples or tips? Say so in the comments.


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1 reply
  1. Doc Knowles says:

    I don’t think you’ve left anything out. This was great advice. I would also suggest that when assembling your web page(s) you avoid the urge to use more than one or two font styles. I have seen too many websites whose pages look like ransom notes. The internet is full of examples of both good and bad. My suggestion is to find several that you really like and try to understand why you like them and then, appropriately mimic them. (not copy…mimic)


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