There’s a difference between making your content good and making your content more readable. Making good content might come easily to you, almost second nature. After all, if you’re a subject matter expert, you’ve got a fountain of knowledge at your fingertips.
But knowledge doesn’t always translate into a good user experience. Large chunks of text, useful though they may be, are easy to gloss over. So making your content more readable can actually do a much better job of translating your knowledge in a way that is accessible.
Readability Adds to Utility
I’ll admit, I used to be kind of a snob when I was writing. I thought bullet points were silly. I thought small paragraphs were little more than talking down to my audience. I had just graduated from an English MA program, so you’ll have to forgive me.
But that style of writing—though it was fine—wasn’t connecting with users. I found much more success when I started making my content more readable.
Style is Important
Much as we might hate to admit it, style is important. It’s not more important than substance (though, our design team at NSE might fight me over that). But it’s important. And that’s especially true when you’re talking about what really amounts to a large chunk of text.
Look, ultimately, you want to engage the reader. That’s what makes for a good user experience—that’s what’s going to get your content shared and boost your SEO. There are a few things that I’ve learned over the years that can help you invite your readers into your subject matter.
Use Many Headings
There was a time when I thought headings were a little pedestrian. They seemed almost insulting. But I’ve learned that they’re an excellent tool for guiding readers to the information they’re after.
To a certain extent, you’re never going to know what the most salient part of your content is going to be. In many cases, users might be more interested in a quick answer to their question than to reading your life’s work (interesting though that may be).
Breaking your content up into several headings can help users skim more quickly, ensuring they get to the content they need in short order. If you’re lucky, they may even stick around for your excellent wordsmithing.
Use Bullet Points
Another way to make content more readable is to use bullet lists quite prolifically. I know, I know, the writer in me used to hate doing that. But, watch how meta I can get here. Bullet lists are good for the following:
- Giving your reader information quickly
- Breaking down a complex subject into its components
- Making lists very readable (separating items by commas can, instead, look rather clunky)
- Giving the eye something to gravitate towards
- Breaking up the content so it doesn’t look quite so intimidating
As you can see, bullet lists have a way of standing out in your content. I usually save some of my most important (and eye catching) points for bullet lists. That’s because if there’s one part of an article most people actually read—it’s the bullet lists.
Your Personality is Important, Too
If your content is catching a reader for the first time, you have a very limited window to make an impression. It helps—a lot—to allow some type of personality to seep into your writing. It’s not always easy. A lot of the medical copy I write has to have a certain amount of dryness to it—a certain level of professionalism.
But generating some personality where you can and when you can—especially when it’s authentic—can help readers see you as a person. And when they see you as a person, they’re much more likely to actually, you know, listen to you.
There are some other small things you can do to make your writing more inviting—keeping the length of your paragraphs under control comes to mind immediately. But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that many users have their own agenda, their own reasons for seeking out your website.
Making your content as easy to peruse, easy to read, and easy to scan is simply a way of helping to ensure that people actually find what they’re looking for. Making your content more readable is a great way to ensure you’re connecting with your audience—and that’s good for you, good for your brand, and good for your SEO. Which means it will be great for your next blog.