Writing web content can be a hard enough task… researching your topic, finding the best SEO keywords, agonising over every single sentence to keep it engaging, informative, and relevant. Finally you piece together content that is a shining masterpiece full of intelligent, insightful and pertinent information.
After taking a moment to give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back, you hit UPLOAD, then sit back to watch your content dazzle!
But for some inexplicable reason, your content fails to deliver. You can’t understand why. Even your mum agreed it was brilliant!
Here are five reasons your content copy may have failed…
OK, this may not be the most politically correct comment… but size matters!
Especially when it comes to your font size. (Or it could just be I’m showing my age now that I seem to need my glasses to read pretty much everything these days.)
Small font may not matter so much when it’s used for a description below a picture, but if you have a page of copy which is no larger than font size 10, it makes it incredibly difficult to read.
Sure, I could enlarge the page size, but why make me go to the effort?
Keep your font size at least 11-12 points so your readers can enjoy your brilliant content, without having to sit 4mm from their screen.
Sharply Contrasted Text/Background
White text on a black background may look edgy and cool… but it can be a killer on your eyes! Just like a bright point of light in a dark room, it can be very difficult to look at and leave you half-blinded long after you’ve finished reading.
Another truly nasty combination is green on red (or vice versa) which should never be used, even if it is Christmas time and you think it looks “festive and fun!”
If you feel you simply have to use these colour combinations, consider taking the contrast down a few notches by using light grey text on a dark grey background (like this), or pale green on a darker maroon background… which is still pretty ghastly, but at least it won’t send your readers into convulsions!
So you’ve gone a good sized font in friendly colours, but for some strange reason you’ve decided to centre all of your text!
Now just for the record, I don’t have an issue with headlines being centred, it can be a smart way to break up the page and add visual interest – but paragraphs and bulleted lists should never be centred!
If you don’t care for the messy right-hand edges of text that’s been left-aligned, then choose fully justified text to keep it neat and tidy.
Otherwise it just looks weird and makes it hard to read, since you have to go hunting for the start of each line.
Large, Unwieldy Paragraphs
Have you ever been in a conversation with one of those people (say a telemarketer) who just keeps talking and talking and talking and they just don’t give you a break in the conversation? You find your mind starts to wander because it’s just one endless tirade of words and without a break it starts to become a little overwhelming. You start looking for an escape because it seems it just won’t end and you need to get home to put dinner on before midnight and if you have to wait until they finish what it is they’re saying, you’re afraid you’re going to be stuck here all night and maybe even the next. This is why it’s so important to put lots of breaks into your online copy. It gives your reader’s a chance to stop and absorb what you’ve said and also makes it easier for them to keep their place. When you’re forced to read one big block of copy, you start to lose track of what line you’ve just read and before you know it, your trapped, reading the same lines over again, as you try to work your way through it all! At some point you just don’t care any more and decide to skip the entire thing and move on to the next website that doesn’t hold you to ransom with nasty big paragraphs.
Too Many Different Font Colours, Styles & Sizes
There’s a perfectly reasonable theory that you can highlight your key points by using a different colour, style or font size to make them stand out.
A theory which works very well when used in moderation.
However, this is one of those things where less is more!!!
To paraphrase Dr Phil (because, gosh, he sure knows his stuff!), when EVERYTHING is important… ultimately NOTHING is important. And if you highlight and emphasise everything you write, then the effect is lost and nothing really stands out as being important.
I’ve also seen sites where words or phrases have been highlighted with underlining. In the world of online content this would normally indicate a link, but if used as a highlighting technique, any actual links would most likely be dismissed.
Above all else, the use of too many colours and font styles and sizes just looks messy!!
To entice your audience to stick around and finish reading your labour of love, keep it easy to read. Make sure your copy:
- is published in a good sized font
- uses reader-friendly colour schemes
- is aligned to the left, or fully justified
- has plenty of paragraph breaks
- maintains a consistent layout with only the most important points highlighted
Got any other examples of layout flaws that do your head in? I’d love to hear them.