Keeping content simple

Unless your website is aggregating scholarly journals and encyclopedia entries, your content is about more than just words on page. Similar to the overall theme, aesthetic, feel and vibe of your website’s design, your individual content pieces should be thought out and visually appealing as well.

This is especially true in an era in which everyone and their brother’s dog walker has a website. If I’m browsing the web, looking for cat training tips, I’m far more likely to stay on a page that’s engaging, easy to read and flows nicely. If images are broken and 10 fonts make up 5 paragraphs, I’m over it.

Here are a few tips that will help keep your content squeaky clean and lovable.

Think like a newspaper. I’m not asking for an “old school” mentality, just a little common sense. In the print editorial world the most important content items live “above the fold.” Online, the fold is more like “above the first scroll down.” In other words, keep your overview paragraph, your coolest image, your best pull quote – all above the fold. This gives readers a good reason to keep going.

Short and sweet. Sticking with the old school theme, ever notice that newspapers break up nearly every sentence into a new paragraph? This helps separate thoughts and move the reader along quickly. Take note, and keep your paragraphs short and sweet. Remember, today’s online reader wants to do as little actual reading as possible. Avoiding long, chunky text gives your content the effect of looking shorter.

Create a call to action. It’s easy to place standard “leave a comment” or “sign up for our newsletter” buttons on your page, but those are easy to ignore. Creating a post-specific call to action within your content is a much better way to draw attention and get response. Pose a specific question at the end of your blog (something a little controversial never hurts) and encourage readers to respond in the comments or email you with their thoughts. Make that question bold. Bake it bigger. Make it bright pink. Don’t go gaudy, but give it a little stand-out pizazz and blatantly tell readers what to do.

Pic this. Images and text should work together like peanut butter and jelly. They should complement each other in a seamless balancing act, not fight for attention, so decide which the reader should focus on. If your post is about all the cool underwater pics you took during your study abroad to Australia, show them off and keep the captions short and sweet. If the text is the centerpiece, wrap it around the photos, and keep most images the same size so as not to distract or confuse.

Don’t be sloppy. Nothing looks worse than a website with uneven spacing, images that don’t line up, etc. That’s great that you think the focus should be on the stellar writing, but if a reader’s eyes are distracted by the messy details, your prose will go to waste. If photos are placed side by side, keep them the same height. If one of your paragraphs starts with a bold word, every paragraph should start with a bold word. And for the love of Internet, give your post a once-over look for broken/exposed code before publishing!