In a perfect world, content would be judged solely on the information it provides. The strength of a piece would depend exclusively on its subject matter, and how that subject is articulated through words and images. But in the online world, great information isn’t enough—you also need to present that information efficiently, and in an aesthetically pleasing way.
So why is this the case, and what can you do to make your content easier to read?
Making Your Content Easy to Read
Content that’s easier to read is always going to outperform content that’s hard to read, all else being equal. Why?
- Competition. There are millions of websites producing content on a regular basis, and online readers have lots of choices. Offering highly readable content could give you the edge you need to succeed.
- Retention. Content that’s easy to read keeps readers engaged for longer, which retains them on your site, increasing your chances for conversion (and increasing the memorability of your brand).
- Scannability. Well-organized content is also scannable, which means readers can quickly glance at the content, from top to bottom, and pick out the information most relevant to them. It saves time and makes the article easy to review in the future as well.
- Linkability. People are more likely to link to readable content since they’ll be able to find important, citable details faster and more obviously.
- Shareability. Readable articles are also more shareable since they offer a quick, easy read.
How to Do It
So what can you do to improve the readability of your content?
1. Segment your article into multiple sections. First, work to segment your article into multiple sections (especially if it’s a long one). This helps guide the reader to whichever section is most relevant to them, and prevents your article from becoming a giant, indiscernible block of text. For example, when writing about things to do in Rome, you can separate your guide based on things like restaurants, incredible views, or ancient ruins.
2. Use bold headers. When starting a new section or sub-section, make sure you’re using bold font. This distinguishes section headers from other swaths of text, and guides readers’ eyes to the most important bits of the article when they’re skimming it. Try to keep your headers relatively short as well, to avoid reader fatigue.
3. Make your font bigger and clearer. As a general rule, the bigger and clearer your font is, the happier your readers are going to be. You may be tempted to use a fancy-looking or unique font on your site; after all, it may better reflect your brand or distinguish you from the competition. But plain, unexciting fonts are often better just because they’re more legible.
4. Watch your colors. By that same token, be careful which colors you use for your text and the background of your website. Black on white is always a reliable standby, but be careful choosing strong colors for either option; you could instantly make your text harder to decipher.
5. Embed occasional images. Images aren’t inherently readable, so they may seem like a strange item to include on this list, but embedding occasional images can make your article easier to follow and digest. For example, if you’re writing about how car engines work, occasional images about the processes involved draw readers’ eyes to the appropriate section, and help them understand the text on a deeper level at the same time.
6. Mix up traditional, bold, and italic text. Try to vary the type of text you’re using. Standard formatted font is the default norm, but throw in occasional swaths of italic or bold text to give the eye some variation.
7. Mix up long and short sentences. Additionally, try alternating between long and short sentences. It will make your paragraphs flow together more cohesively, and will also make your content easier to follow.
8. Make your paragraphs shorter. Today’s standards dictate short paragraphs as the norm. Shorter paragraphs allow for more space between sentences, and more time for eyes to relax before moving onto the next bit of text (which is especially important when scrolling on mobile devices).
9. Rely on bullet points and lists. Finally, when listing items, make sure you organize them into bulleted or numerical lists (with bold fonts). These are easy to read and follow, and are perfect for people who only want to skim your content.
Readability isn’t going to make your content an instant success, but it’s an essential ingredient to producing high-quality content that people actually want to read. These improvements may be all it takes to transform a good article into a great one, so don’t neglect them in your own work.