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Does your website text overwhelm readers?

Too much website text can overwhelm readers.

Like piling a plate with too much food, too much website text can overwhelm readers.

In the previous century – before digital – all marketing materials were printed. Printing is expensive, so everyone thought long and hard about the amount of text that had to be included. Marketers were forced to write concisely and edit ruthlessly. This was good for us and good for readers.

Today we take for granted the ease with which we can add text to a website. That is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that businesses can continually improve their websites. The curse is that there’s no stopping us from cramming websites with more, more, more.

Like patrons at a restaurant, visitors to your website want to see a menu that has everything they expect clearly identified and categorized. At a restaurant those might be Appetizers, Entrees, Sides, Desserts; the website version might be About Us, Products, Services, Contact.

Like menu item names, page titles help us choose what we want to consume. And whether we are ordering from a waiter or clicking to open a page, we have unspoken expectations about the way the “meal” will be presented and the portion size.

Most of us will be disgusted and lose our appetite if the next thing we see is a giant glob of stuff. No matter how much we may like chicken wings, cheesesteaks, crabby fries and hot fudge brownie sundaes, we don’t want oversize servings of all four, piled on a single platter and served all at once. There is such a thing as too much!

The same is true of website text. Serving up a giant glob of verbiage will turn off readers. Most only want a taste. For those hungry to learn more, you can provide a multi-course meal if you serve it in reasonable portion sizes, one course at a time.

Follow these tips to create appetizing web page text:

  • Start with the meat (or tofu). The typical website visitor is in eat-and-run mode, so begin each page with most important information, written as concisely as you can.
  • Let diners order the courses. Break up the rest of the text into sections with subheads, so that a quick skim of the subheads lets each visitor choose what – if anything – to read next.
  • Offer extra helpings upon request. The most interested visitors may want more depth or detail, so give them a read-more link to a page that provides it.
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