Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think, claims that web users don’t read, they scan. Only when people are interested in the content do they read web pages word for word. Normally, pages are skimmed for highlighted keywords, meaningful headings, short paragraphs, and scannable lists.
Well-structured pages designed for cursory reading are more likely to be read. Web-usability studies conducted by Neilson suggest that most users read merely 28% of text on a web page, and that concise, scannable and objective copywriting can result in 124% better usability.
When people arrive on a web page, they immediately begin scanning to decide whether or not the page is of value to them. For this reason, web content constructed for scannability can certainly pay off.
According to usability.gov, six factors can provide a superior user experience and convert visitors into readers:
1. Usefulness – Content is original and fills a need.
2. Usability – Site is easy to navigate.
3. Desirability – Design elements have pull and appeal.
4. Ease – Content (onsite and offsite) is locatable and effortless.
5. Accessibility – Content is viable for those with disabilities.
6. Credibility – Source is believed and trusted by users.
Creating effective, usable content for any site is of great value. One way to do this is to write and format for scannability. Wherever possible, incorporate bullet lists, block quotes, subheadings, emphases, concise copy, short paragraphs, and visual elements, Infographics and visuals can quickly convey instructions or data, and are far more interesting than dull and often frustrating tables.
This being said, there’s no point in scannable content creation if a site cannot support it. It is wise to employ site-wide CSS, allowing for ample whitespace around content copy, headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, and lists.
Simple and minimal go hand in hand, but they are not synonymous.
Minimal design is a visual decluttering of objects, forcing designers to say more by displaying less. It is a reduction in style elements, adding only enough to tell a story, accomplish a task, or meet product goals. According to Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, minimalism is skin deep. What appears simple-looking can contain hidden complexities in UI.
Simplicity seamlessly blends the whole experience. Where there is both simplicity and usability, the overall product/application will shine. Design choices are meant to support product goals and empower users, period.
In his book, The Laws of Simplicity,( http://lawsofsimplicity.com/, John Maeda notes, “On the one hand, you want a product or service to be easy to use; on the other hand you want it to do everything that a person might want it to do. […] The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. When in doubt, just remove. But be careful of what you remove.”
To that end, keeping text copy simple and accessible is key––but not at the expense of meaningful information. Combining both elements is simplification at its best, working in support of both clarity and user experience.
The fewer elements on the screen, the more potent the communication. This is respectful design, as long as users are still able to perform intended functions. We should all strive for simplicity, while avoiding the cost of oversimplification.
To quote Albert Einstein, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
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