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.