Shape your text for online reading
Text that works best on the Web is text that gets to the point fast and that makes it easy for readers to pick out key information. Here’s why.
Online reading is an experience that’s different from reading text in print. A big part of that difference is physical: For most people, online reading takes longer—or feels as though it does. A computer screen displays text at a lower resolution, with less detail and sharpness than a printed page, so letters are fuzzier. And many people feel that their eyes tire faster reading text on a screen (especially a smaller screen) than reading type on paper.
Most online readers scan first. According to computer usability expert Jakob Nielsen, “People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.” Eye-tracking studies, which examine where people’s eyes roam on a webpage, reveal these basic truths about site visitors:
- They scan to see whether the content is relevant.
- They are more likely to scan the top of the page than the bottom.
- They look at headings, boldfaced terms, and images.
Scanning requires less brainpower than reading. Concise sentences that convey their point quickly are more likely to grab visitors than long, complex sentences and are more likely to entice people to explore further.