So you’re doing regular blog posts and they have unique content, why is formatting so critical to your blog posts?
“If the content is great and relevant then why does formatting even matter?” You may ask, “as long as it’s readable and crawlable by the search engine it should work, right?”
No, not really, and here’s why.
Skimmers Not Readers
In a study on web usability from 1997 by Jakob Nielson’s shows that 79% of users skim or scan rather than read.
The web is an interactive medium, unlike the TV which we just sit back and passively consume.
Finding the information we require through the internet can be a lot of work for the user. Due to humans being busy humans, we have developed techniques such as “skimming” to quickly determine whether the content in front of our face is worth the time and energy to read.
So how we grab a user’s attention and hold it is the key, right?
Well grabbing a user’s attention is another topic all together, but holding it is actually the key, as they have clicked on your blog already.
If the content is good, allow people to easily digest it! This is where good formatting will allow a skimmer to become a reader, as they can easily follow the content and consume it without confusion or distraction.
- Column width – Try and keep your column width to around 80 or 90 characters including spaces. Wide columns of text can be a big turn off to the mind’s eye when in scanning mode.
- Punctuation – These are no brainers but use punctuation. Try and reduce the length of unnecessarily long sentences. Use full stops, commas, dashes to break up each paragraph into smaller pieces of information that make sense quickly.
- Smaller Paragraphs – Break up paragraphs into manageable chunks that the busy humans can consume with ease. A good pointer is 2 to 5 sentences in length per paragraph. Also feature one idea per paragraph.
- Line Breaks – As above White space is important, so use Line Break as another way to increase the white space being used in you blogs.
- Headings & Sub Headings – These will break up a long blog post and help people skimming to decide to read your post instead. Make your headings strong, and your sub headings compelling. Make sure they give you the gist of the information contained therein.
- Use Lists – They are an easily scannable way to present content or multiple points, as well as breaking up the flow of the normal paragraphs in your blog. Lists also allow people to find the content they want faster.
- Enhance with Bolding – Add emphasis to your writing by enhancing important elements or important concepts that you want the user to focus on. However, don’t overuse the Bolding, as it can soon become mort distracting than attracting – and confuse the readers more than it helps. Only emphasise the important parts of your posts.
- Fonts – Don’t get creative with your use of custom fonts or your font sizes. Just use the ones your blogging system recommends or use something like Verdana or Roboto as they are designed to be easy on the eyes.
- Forget the Italics – They’re hard to read on paper let alone on screen, never use them is my tip.
- DON’T USE CAPS – Why? Because it looks stupid, like I’m yelling at you. Just like with text messaging and other forms of text based communications, emotions are hard to gauge, so avoid things like CAPS that can convey the wrong emotion.
- Relevant Links – Always try and put in your own internal links to your own content where you are able, as well as to external links to relevant content.
- Images – Break up the words with images, I think one every 300 to 600 words is a good point to start, some people use images instead of sub headings to engage the users more.
Hopefully you can now write your post with these suggestions in mind, and turn those busy human scanners into attentive readers.
Blog design and blog formatting really do make a huge difference in the end product so please remember these tips when next you design a blog post.