Quick steps to improving readability (Reflections on GCD post)

By Matt Cornock

As well as a couple of simple steps to take to improve readability of sites (below), this is just a short post to flag up an article I found recently by Gail Diggs at GCD Marketing: When “Bad Writing” is Good. Essentially, the old rules of copy writing are “thrown out the window” because of the way that users read text on screen in short, scanning ways and are often impatient to find the next web page to read. This compared to the paper-based format of ‘leisure reading’.

The comments provided by the GCD website visitors are also interesting: highlighting the necessity to write well, and not to explicitly insert SEO keywords. This raises the very valid point that search engines are more aware of site trying to rig results ranking than they used to be. Writing good, relevant content, including the SEO methods that don’t hinder human-readability, and writing in a way that acknowledges web user behaviour will dramatically improve the way a website is perceived.

Simple steps to improve content to relate to web user behaviour:

  • Use headings appropriately and structure web pages.
  • Put the significant words up front, but write naturally (according to your audience).
  • Take out the marketing fluff, stick to facts, trim the excess, keep keyword (relevant content) to text (fluff) ratio down.
  • Make the <title> tags and meta description relevant for search engine results pages.
  • Re-read your site. If it doesn’t make sense when you properly read it (print it out) then it won’t make sense to anyone.

See also further supporting research by Jakob Nielsen: Writing style for print vs. web and How little do users read?.

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