Tips and Strategies for Crafting Scan-Friendly UX Content
On average, people typically read between 20 to 28% of the words on a webpage. Given this limited attention span, what strategies can UX writers employ to create effective content for their audience?
It is a well-known fact that people rarely read online. Instead, they skim and scan their way through the text, pausing only when something catches their eye. This method of scanning text makes perfect sense as the internet is a sea of information. If we carefully digested every piece of information we encounter online, we would quickly become overwhelmed by information overload.
Thus, as UX writers, we should come to terms with the harsh reality that people are unlikely to read our content word for word. Rather, they will pick only as much information as is necessary to complete their task.
Now, the big question is: How can we create UX content that supports scanning?
Luckily, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. I researched and put together ten ways to craft UX copy for people who prefer to scan.
Start with the key point
When writing for the web, begin with the main point rather than building up to it (as in traditional writing). Why? People rely on the first few words of a webpage (or paragraph) to decide if the information is relevant to their task. If the first words don’t look promising, they move on.
To support this method of processing information, use an inverted pyramid writing style.
- Start with the main point
- Then provide supporting information
- End with history/background (if needed)
Use clear headings and subheadings
Use clear, concise headings and subheadings to break your text into smaller sections and make it easier to scan. The title should be clear and descriptive so readers can grasp the content of each section at a glance. Notice how you can easily understand the concept of this paragraph simply by looking at the subheading.
Make use of bullets and lists
A large wall of text is not easy on the eyes. Do your users a favor by breaking down large chunks of text into smaller ones with lists and bullets. Lists and bullets help to:
- Highlight important information
- Make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for
Trim off the fluff
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. Users don’t come to your site to admire your writing style. They are there to gather information or perform a task. If they can’t find what they need quickly and easily, they’ll leave your site and go elsewhere.
Highlight important information with bold or italicized text
Use bold or italicized fonts to draw attention to important information. But be careful not to overdo it, as too much bold or italicized text can be overwhelming.
Supplement text with images
Use visual aids to support your words. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Visual aids not only help break up walls of text but also helps users grasp important information quickly and easily.
Note: When using images, add alt text for users who rely on screen readers.
Use consistent terminology
When writing for an interface, say an e-commerce app, for instance, don’t refer to the merchandise as “items” in one place and “products” in another. You will increase the cognitive load on your users.
When users scan a page, they look for visual cues and patterns to help them identify the information they need. By using the same term to represent the same thing all through the interface, they can quickly recognize the term and understand what it means.
Use active voice instead of passive voice
Active voice is usually clearer, more concise, and more direct than passive voice. So, it enables users to quickly find the information they need without having to wade through unnecessary language.
Test, test, and test
Content user testing can give us valuable insights into the vocabulary that has the highest impact on our users, both positive and negative. It helps us understand the words and phrases users expect to see and where they expect to see them. This knowledge can contribute to crafting content that is easy to scan and comprehend.
Be receptive to feedback
If our goal as UX writers is to support our users, we should avoid getting too attached to the words we use. Instead, we should keep an open mind and be receptive to feedback from users, which we can use to improve our content and better meet their needs.
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