Fewer words, more action was the message for AIGA’s luncheon on web copy. Alice Williams from Hesketh, spoke about limiting the words on your website because when there are less words the visitor spends more time at your site. Those who aren’t designers tend to try and put as many words as possible to get their message across, but Alice explained to the group that there’s a few key things you can keep in mind while designing your web page, if you want the visitor to stick around.
First, establish a tone for your entire site. What kind of mood will your customer be in when they are researching your industry on the web? What kind of voice do you want your website to have? Pay attention to the sentence structure and cadence of what words are there, and establish what words need to be emphasized. Then, when getting into the design aspects of your site – keep in mind that scan ability is key! Research has shown that most internet users scan web pages in the shape of an F. They read the top line, a line somewhere in the middle if it stands out or is bulleted somehow, and then continue to scan down while staying mostly to the left. Visitors read maybe 20-30% of the wordage on your site, so keep that in mind when developing your copy. More info on F-shaped scanning here
Other tips from the expert: use a call to action, but not in paragraph form – make it stand out! And last, people like to see results. Use a tool, such as infographics, to create a visual way for potential customers to view and understand your results.
As a designer here at Burning Oak Studios, I try not to handle copy too often. It’s not that designers can’t be great copy-writers; it’s just that I’m not great with words. I tend towards the verbose but I want succinct.
We had the lovely Alice Williams from Hesketh speaking and she put a slide that I fell in love with.
For every 100 words, people spend 4.4 seconds less on screen
THIS. The biggest difficulty I face is trying to design copy, whether I’m designing with it, around it, over, under… my hurdle is the sheer amount of words clients love to use in copy. Alice mentioned a study at Stanford where they were able to track user’s eye movements and detect the strongest area of a user’s concentration, which is fleeting at its best.
I did some follow-up reading on the subject via Jakob Neilson & Kara Pernice’s Eyetracking Web Usability collection, and Sandra J. Blum’s 2006 article. This is invaluable information. It helps drive the fact to clients visually regarding “less is more”.
Alice Williams at Hesketh
Jakob Neilson & Kara Pernice’s Eyetracking Web Usability collection
Sandra J. Blum’s 2006 eyetracking article