by Tom Dahm,
Chief Operations Officer,
Want to learn how to write for the Web? Here's a good rule of thumb: visitors don't read your page, they browse through it. A well written Web page should read more like a brochure or a briefing than a formal report.
If you've ever conducted a detailed review of your access logs, then you've probably learned a humbling fact: most visitors spend less than 30 seconds viewing your page. This data is confirmed by a number of Web usability studies. These studies have found that visitors scan Web pages, picking out prominent words and phrases, rather than reading them word-for-word
With the next Web site just a click away, visitors often lack the patience to read each line of your page. Your Web page should be designed to draw the reader's eyes to the most important information.
How can you accomplish this? Jakob Nielsen's excellent AlertBox column has some tips. Here are his key points.
First, cut down your page's word count. Terse pages are easier to read than long pages. Second, use one idea per paragraph. Visitors scanning Web pages often read only the first sentence of each paragraph. As a result, important ideas buried inside a paragraph are often missed. Third, use bullet lists, bold text, and sub-headings to highlight key points. Fourth, write using an "inverted pyramid" style, placing the most important ideas at the top of your page. Journalists have followed the inverted pyramid style for years.
>We could add at least one more point to this list: avoid clutter. A crowded Web page creates visual noise. There's nothing wrong with having white space on your page. Remember, the key is to draw the reader's eyes to the most important parts of the page.
Still not convinced? Try reading our alternate version of this page. We've redesigned this page to improve it's "browsability." Click here to view the changed page.