Question: How do people read online?
Answer: They don’t read, they scan.
In research on how people read websites it’s been found that 79% of users first scanned any new page they came across and only 16% read word-by-word. Knowing this, how should bloggers who want to reach an audience and communicate effectively write?
Why do people scan?
Chances are that not everyone who comes across your blog will already be a devoted reader. These new visitors want to find out quickly whether reading what you’ve written is a worthwhile investment of their time.
Studies have also shown that reading from a screen is more tiring and therefore about 25% slower than reading from paper – hence scanning becomes a technique that most employ.
People read online by scanning the page for individual words or phrases, headings and other visual cues.
Is your Blog Scannable ?
It’s a pretty simple thing to test:
- Ask a friend who is not familiar with your site to take a quick look at a few of your recent posts
- Give them 15 to 30 seconds on each post
- At the end of which you ask them what the post was about
You’ll quickly get a sense of how they’ve interacted with your blog.
Techniques to Make your Blog Scannable
Good bloggers keep this in mind as they write and will employ a variety of techniques to make their posts easier to read.
Some of these techniques include…
8. Make your key point up front
If you have a key point make sure you say it up front. One trap many of us fall into is to bury our main points deep within content where it’s unlikely to be noticed.
(In fact I just moved this point up from number 8 on the list)
If not in the title and opening line, get your message across in the first few sentences. You can expand upon it later.
Anecdotal evidence here at ProBlogger suggests:
- My posts with bullet point lists in them get linked to A LOT more
- Than similar length posts written in more of an essay style
- This post has a list built into it – you’re reading number 1 of 10 points
Use bold, CAPITALS, italics, underlining, teletext and to emphasize points.
DON’T GO OVERBOARD AS YOU RUN THE RISK OF FRUSTRATING YOUR READER.
Also consider changing font size, color and style to draw your readers eyes to your main points.
and Sub Headings
Large, bold words that act as visual cues of what is happening in the content are effective ways of drawing readers further into articles.
Research shows that readers eyes are drawn down the page by pictures. Place them cleverly by your key points (especially when they closely relate to the content) and you have more of a chance of getting readers to read full articles.
5. Borders/Block quotes
Boxes around quotes and key points can similarly get the attention of readers.
Don’t feel you have to fill up every inch of your screen.
Rather, create spaces because they help readers not to feel overwhelmed
and tend to draw readers eyes
to what is inside such space.
7. Get to the Point
Be succinct with your points.
9. Find creative ways to reinforce your main point throughout your post
For example – this post is itself an example of using scannable techniques to reinforce the need to use scannable techniques.
10. Don’t introduce too many new ideas in one post
(I could tell you many more ways to create scannable content, but 10 is probably enough for now)
This helps to avoid overwhelming readers with information all at once.
If you want to cover many ideas that relate to one another consider a series of posts that link to each other.
If your site and its posts are not easily scannable you run the risk of losing your reader to another blog that is.
This article was first published on August 19, 2005 and updated July 21, 2022.