Posted on September 9, 2022
Online users rarely tend to read word for word. They are much more likely to scan web pages, often in the lawn-mower or F-pattern, focusing their attention only on the elements that are of particular interest to them.
Their level of motivation and focus also play an important role. Are they doing research for work, or are they spending their own free time reading an article?
In both cases, online readers want to spend as little time as possible getting to the information they require. If they need to search for it and if the page they’ve landed on is difficult to read, they will bounce off.
Readability plays an important role in user experience. Low readability scores result in lower time on page, higher bounce rates, and consequently lower rankings.
Here is what you can do to write and publish content that is as readable as it possible can be:
The typography of a page plays a very important role in its readability. A cursive font, for example, will be hard for readers to decipher. It will significantly lower your readability scores, even if the text itself is easy to read and understand.
Instead, you want to use a sans serif font for body text and limit yourself to no more than two fonts on the entirety of the website. If you choose more than two, make sure they are cohesive enough not to be distracting.
Use a font size that will match your audience’s reading habits. For instance, if your audience mainly consists of senior citizens (if you are selling hearing aids, for example), you want your fonts larger.
Carefully consider font sizing on mobile, as you want it to be readable but not too chunky. You want to stick to between 40 and 80 characters per line. On a desktop, that will mean you add plenty of white space on either side of the screen.
On mobile, you will need to have less white space but still ensure there is plenty of space between each line and character.
If you want to add some colour to your fonts, make sure they are easy to read. Highlighting a couple of words at a time is a much better choice than making all of your text colorful.
Hubspot has mastered the art of formatting and typographic design. Read any of their posts (on both desktop and mobile), and you’ll notice that they have found the right blend of white space, font size, colour, and paragraph length.
Since most of your audience will skim rather than read, you want to break up your text with plenty of headings. Make sure they are organized in a logical way. Present the most important points first and have the rest laid out so that they tell a cohesive story. Don’t jump from one point to the next.
As for relatability, you always want to focus on the reader instead of yourself. You want your headings to mean something to them and not highlight your own ends.
For example, this Scrabble Word finder page on UnscrambleX is organized well. The subheadings are organized in a logical manner based on importance. They focus on the benefits for the player, as opposed to benefits for the company or the way the software has been designed.
This makes the content easier to follow and much more relatable. While readers are not likely to take every word in, they will certainly read the headings. And that’s enough to convince them to read more, if not convert.
People rarely read long blocks of text online. If you confront a visitor with a huge amount of text, they will instantly give up. But it won’t seem so daunting if you break that same amount of information down for them.
Chunking, i.e., creating readable chunks of text, can be achieved both by formatting and the use of visuals.
Write short paragraphs. Two-three lines are all you need, and the reader will be able to read them faster, as they are less likely to lose their place. Use bulleted and numbered lists to add some diversity and draw attention to specific points.
If the topic of your post lends itself to the use of visuals, make sure to also add images, videos, quotes, charts, and graphs – anything that helps illustrate your points and further break up that wall of text. This is especially important if you are writing a very complex, long-form article.
This Wrike post on understanding risk is a good example. It uses all the required elements, there are plenty of on-point visuals, and no paragraph is too long. They are also utilizing internal links well – directing traffic where they want readers to go, all the while keeping them relevant to the topic at hand.
This allows them to write a shorter post on a complex topic, as they don’t have to explain a lot of complex processes but merely reference them.
Unless you are writing a very short post, provide a table of contents that will help readers easily find the part of the article they are interested in.
Sure, the headings themselves help with navigation, but the reader would still be required to scroll down the page. If they need to skim through 3000 words on a mobile screen, they will quickly get bored.
A table of contents can be their shortcut to all those logically-named headings they want to read more about. Some readers may choose not to read any of your content, as they have already found all the information they need. This is mostly true for numbered list posts.
Most importantly, the table of contents must hyperlink to the appropriate anchors on the page. That way, there will be zero unwanted scrolling involved. Without the hyperlinks, the table of contents serves merely as a summary rather than a navigational tool.
This Each Night post on best mattresses is a great example of easy navigation. The article itself is very long, and no reader will want to learn everything there is to know about all the different mattresses. So, there’s the table of contents to instantly tell each audience segment where they need to go.
Now imagine reading this post without the hyperlinks but with the table of contents. Not as effective, right?
Even though it may be quite tempting to stuff your post with a lot of keywords to improve your on-page SEO, never do it at the cost of readability. Your readers want their answers as soon as possible. They will not appreciate you making the post longer just so you can include more keywords.
In fact, a post that is well written will pretty much automatically include all the relevant phrases anyway. That does not mean you shouldn’t be doing keyword research and utilizing the phrases you want to rank for.
Write your post naturally first, providing the answer as early on in the text as possible. For instance, this post on painting a room gives you the answer in the very first paragraph. It then goes on to provide more useful information, but you can just as easily stop reading.
The blog even goes so far as to highlight the answer with bold text. Any reader skimming the content in search of an immediate answer will have their eyes drawn to the appropriate section of text.
Once you’ve written a post organically, so to speak, edit it to feature all of those keywords you’ve found during your research. This will make the article much more readable than if you were to do the opposite and write around the keywords.
Always remember that organic traffic means nothing without engagement. Drawing people to your blog is not going to be valuable if people bounce from your site because your content is inaccessible.
In summary, the most effective techniques you can use to create highly readable, accessible content for your readers involve:
Readability plays a crucial role in user experience. If a long-form post is hard to digest, it won’t be nearly as appreciated as a better-formatted one, no matter how much valuable information it provides.
Don’t forget that writing is just half the battle. You’ll need to package your writing so that it’s appealing and in line with your audience’s preferences.