Is your website set up for skimmers as well as readers? In this article, we’ll explore the best five ways ways to make your site skim-able.
People come to a website looking for something in particular. So rather than read every word on the site, they’ll skim through the pages until they find what interests them – and then they’ll read. So the trick to an effective website is to make it easy to skim without cutting out all the essential parts that will answer people’s questions.
Here’s how you do that…
Clear Page GoalsEvery page on your website should have a purpose – and hopefully one purpose only. That keeps things friendly and straightforward. When you identify a page’s goals, you make it easier for a reader to determine if that page will contain what he’s looking for.
1 Eye-Catching Headers
When someone comes to a webpage, their eyes might first scan over the top banner. That’s where you’ve probably got your logo, company name, tagline, etc. But the first bit of copy they will read is the header.
Don’t waste that space; use that header to tell the reader what the page is about (see #1). Use copywriting best practices, too, to make the title as strong as possible. Convey a compelling benefit with active, descriptive words.
2 Short Paragraphs to Make Your Site Skim-able
Pick up any newspaper, look at any article, and try to find a paragraph more than four sentences long. You’ll have a hard time; most sections will have just one or two sentences. That’s because short paragraphs are easier to read. And you want your website to be easy to read, right?
Stick to one point per paragraph. If it takes you more than four sentences to make your point, you’re probably making more than one point.
3 Strong Subheads
Every couple of short paragraphs include a subheading that briefly sums up the following one or two sections. Ideally, someone who comes to your page could read only the header and subheads and still get the gist of what the page is about. However, subheads also signal the skimmer which sections he might want to zero in on and read more closely.
4 Well-Chosen Images
A picture says a thousand words. However, the right images – photographs, charts, graphs, etc. – can convey an idea far faster than a paragraph of terms. Just make sure you clearly label the image so that readers know what they’re looking at.
5 Identified Links to Make Your Site Skim-able
The standard notation for hyperlinks on a page has become underlined, blue font. Therefore, when you see a word on a highlighted web page and in blue font, you automatically recognize that as a link.
Try to avoid underlining words or using a blue font on a webpage for things that are not links; it just confuses skimmers. And keep it consistent; if you use magenta to signify a link, do so consistently throughout your site.
More importantly, don’t make a word or an image a link without making it crystal clear that it is a link.
Now, it’s true that if someone hovers their mouse over the image, they’ll see that it’s a link. But here’s the thing: people scan with their eyes, not their mouse. So the chances are good that a skimmer won’t ever notice that your image includes a link to precisely the page he is looking for.
In the end, time is money – especially when it comes to websites. So make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for on your site, and they’ll reward you with their business.