Read a random small business website, and you’ll find yourself yawning.
Look past the home page and you may even be offended. I reviewed a few interior design sites recently, figuring decorators would have an eye toward aesthetics.
Here were some of the more obvious problems:
Colored Font – Usually unreadable. It’s never ok to sacrifice clarity for aesthetics.
Flashy Colors – Such a distraction! Why not focus on your message rather than your great eye for color?
Pictures of Sofas – At least 8 of the 10 sites had the gratuitous picture of a sofa on their home page. Well, it’s not awful, but if everyone’s doing the same thing how can you stand out?
Bottom line: these sites were boring, hard to read, and didn’t address the prospect’s problems.
But let’s start small.
One of the easiest ways to immediately fix up a website is to format the text.
Interesting formatting makes the content more inviting and easier to read. Subheads, bullets, and white space all help to make the text more inviting to the reader.
A big brick of words is intimidating. Reminds us of our old high school textbooks.
What are some of the key elements to include in websites, articles, and even emails to increase readability?
Bolding – Bolding helps text stand out, and says “This is important”.
Subheads – A few good subheads can tell the whole story. A good rule of thumb is to include at least one subhead per page on paper, two per page online.
Italics – Similar to bolding, but more subtle and sometimes more powerful. Great for introductions or summaries.
White Space – Essential to making online text more readable. But be careful. Some copywriters suggest making sentence lines really short, like 1-5 words! To me this is distracting and takes away from the flow of the piece.
Punctuation – The next best thing to being there. One of the biggest challenges with email is that it’s so easily misinterpreted. The most benign comments can cause a furor, hence the development of emoticons. I wouldn’t rush to add emoticons to business correspondence, but do feel free to use appropriate punctuation if it makes your meaning clearer.
Underlining – This one’s tricky when used online, because it looks like a link. But it can be used for headlines or subheads.
Color Fonts – Again, used sparingly color can be very effective. Black should almost always be your primary text color, but throwing color into headlines and subheads helps them stand out.
Bullets – I love bullets. They’re easy to read, help organize information and give your visitor a different perspective.
Some of these site elements are particularly search engine friendly, like headlines, subheads, bolding, and the words around hyperlinks. Search engine crawlers love this stuff too.
It’s all about making your text easier to read for your visitor. If it even looks boring you’ll lose them. Bad website copy is a waste of time to you and your visitor. To find out more about keeping your visitors coming back for more info with great website content, you’re welcome to subscribe to Copywriting Strategies.
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