That Darned Content pg 4: Production Graphics with Wendy Peck at webreference.com | WebReference

That Darned Content pg 4: Production Graphics with Wendy Peck at webreference.com

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That Darned Content: Break Up Your Text

 

I have pointed out the dangers of text that is too big and text that is in lines that are too long, but there is another "too much" category. That is simply too much text. Maybe your client insists that every tiny thing about his or her business must, absolutely must, be included. Or maybe, it is an information site that truly must contain volumes of text. But sooner or later you will end up with a site that has so much text it is impossible to create great looking pages. Plus, you worry that the visitors will get discouraged and fail to read the important information.

Hopeless? Not at all with a little planning and some judicious chopping. The first chop should always be to tighten the text. Few writers produce work that cannot be reduced considerably. But once you have the text pared as much as possible, you can still break it up into digestible portions for your visitors.

   
 

Short Paragraphs
I believe that long paragraphs are simply invitations to skip that paragraph. Short paragraphs containing only a few sentences are much easier to read than the 25 line models, especially on the Web when a portion of the paragraph may run off the screen. I will look for any natural break to create a new paragraph. (Long paragraphs are tough to proof read, too.)

 

   

 

Top: break your text into short topics with headings. Bottom: A short description of an item, along with an invitation to read more about the subject keeps entry pages looking lively, and gives you the chance to present more choices.

Divide Logical Sections of Text
In the sample I featured on the front page, the improvement from the original to the version shown at the left was all done with chopping information into bits. Note the menu in the left column. This menu contains many options, enough that it was difficult to read in one line. Breaking the selections into logical sections, changes the visitor experience from one of fighting to read the options, to a quick skim and choose operation.

I am a big fan of a more option when used to reduce the amount of text, especially on a main page. When a visitor arrives at your site, the first act is usually to scout around for a few minutes before honing in on a path of action. If you want to keep your visitor, you make sure that the information that one visitor is seeking is just a click away.

Provide a short description of a subject, and end with an invitation to read more, as shown in the sample on the left. If the subject is interesting to the visitor, he or she will not mind the extra click. If the subject is not what other visitors are looking for, providing a short description gives them the choice to click or ignore that part of the page.

   

When you create text in a grammatically correct format, the words take a lot of space, the page is solid and boring and it is more difficult for the visitor to quickly absorb the important points. Compare this paragraph to the bulletted list below. Which would you rather use for your information gathering?

Bullets provide an excellent tool to present information and offer the following benefits:

  • reduce wasted space
  • create visual interest
  • information is easier to absorb

Use Bullets
Bullets are the communicator's best friend. Bullets remove the need for grammatically correct sentences, which often reduces the size of the sentence to half or less.

In addition to saving space, bullets make it so easy for visitors to understand what the subject is. A quick skim of the list at the left will tell you exactly where the author (just me, not a famous quote) stands on this subject. It is hard to mine the same information from the paragraph text.

You can customize your bullet when using CSS, so there is no "ugly" excuse for not using bullets.

Carry on to learn about using page areas to make your content jump out at visitors.

   
 

Next page

That Darned Content: Tutorial Index

Hey, Wait! That's What It's all About
Line Length is Critical to Legibility
Bigger is Not Better for Text
Break Up Your Text
Creating Logical Areas for Text

Front page2345

Created by Wendy Peck,
URL: http://www.webreference.com/graphics/column51/
Created: September 6, 2001
Revised: September 6, 2001