8 Tips on How to Make your Content Scannable

Visitor’s Scan First, Read Second

Think about your last visit to the local confectionary store.  Walking in, you were greeted with alluring sights of sweets and other goodies and it filled you with mouth-watering anticipation.

Candy store owners are often smart about how they lay the products out in sections so it’s easy for customers to visually scan. The eyes taste first, and they want to capitalize on the shopper’s impulse.

Retailers know this and more about “candy store content strategy.”  In fact, this is applied psychology, where you’re stimulating interest and intent that is lying dormant in the visitor’s mind. You’re stirring emotions and ensuring they do what they really want to do.  Making the most of the customer’s existing intent is the key to conversion.

Are you capitalizing on your visitor’s impulse? Are their eyes feasting on your content? If your ecommerce conversion rate is 6%, you still didn’t interest 94% of your visitors. Were your pages an immediate turnoff?

Scannability ─ Give Them What they need to Stay with your Content

People view scannable elements individually as they progress down the web page.  They scan headings, pictures, bits of text in certain spots, and gather a quick overall impression. Whether they read the whole page or just scan a few things, you need to ensure you’ve communicated your value proposition quickly and easily. If they’re only skimming or scanning, then you can see why key elements such as graphics, headings, bolded keywords, and other cues are so important.

Like it or not, that’s what they’re seeing and interacting with.

Making a retail store scannable doesn’t guarantee a sale. I’ve gone into candy stores plenty of times and come back out with no purchase. So something else is at work that affected me on those times when I did purchase something. What was it the retailer did if anything?

It could be teaser cards in the displays, the correct candies/chocolates highly visible, colourful cartoon character cards stuck in the cupcakes, or stickers with some tasty ingredient listed. That’s where you drill down to capture their senses and secure the sale. That’s the real world retail example, but what about web pages?

What are the basics of scannable content on Web sites? And notice I’m saying content and not just copy. The page is a visual whole and must be approached that way. Sometimes the copy just supports the visuals (photo or video) which are the key emotional drivers of a sale. They carry a powerful emotional effect and that’s what we want to leverage. Not that copy isn’t powerful; it’s just one part of a persuasive architecture that is the whole of your page and Web site.

Case Example

This homepage gives visitors the visuals they want to see, easily. The visitor will probably scan in an Z pattern, and find that they want to either visit the showroom, or drill down into details via the drop down menu. This maintains the visitors momentum right into one of the subpages. Check your own websites stats to see what visitors are clicking on the homepage or whether they’re leaving.

Great Web Design

There are plenty of theories about how eyes scan down the page; the F pattern and the Z pattern are the most well-known. However, you have the opportunity to create whatever visual tracking path you want by shaping your content on the page. You can attract attention and control it with your content layout.

Our Top 8 Page Scannability Tips

Tip 1   Make headings prominent, easy to read, attention getting, and stimulating

e.g., I Just Got a FREE Car! I May Just Tell you how I Did It

This gets your attention, and gives you a reason to be interested in reading the rest.

Tip 2   Use Powerful Visuals

Bugatti VeyronStock photography probably won’t work. You need something real and unusual. Pinterest and Flickr are good sources to find pics that you can insert into your pages.  Don’t discount these pics, if chosen well, they build interest in your content — that’s your goal right now.

Your main visuals should be eye catching too. In this example, we’d want a brilliant picture of an immaculate new car, preferably with the door open, beckoning us to get inside.

The viewer will scan further down the page to the next element that catches their attention. That would be the second subheading where we lure them into the details of the subject/product/service.

Now they’re pumped up, motivated, and anticipating some sort of satisfaction.

Okay, so you know there’s a strategy in how you lay out elements of your page. Common sense should be a good guide here. What else can you include to make the page scannable?

Tip 3   Bullet points

Choose these carefully and avoid just listing details. These should move the reader forward.

  •   important details
  •   product benefits
  •   service features
  •   value

Tip 4   Bolded Words or Phrases

This might be your keywords or may not. It’s important words that you need to drill into their consciousness.

Tip 5   Pyramid Style Writing

Ensuring you have headings and copy at the top of the page to indicate what your post/page is about helps them determine whether it’s worth reading. This is important because if you waste their time on one article, they won’t read the rest of your articles. They’ll leave.

Tip 6   Paragraph Length

Paragraphs should start out short; 2 sentences, and then can go longer, but if the block of text goes more than let’s say 7 lines, it can start to get tough to read. The scanner might see your huge 20 sentence block of text and cringe at the thought of trying to make sense of it. Think about limiting your paragraphs to one major point and that might help your cause.  There’s no science here since you need to get your message across.

Tip 7   Text Boxes and Call Outs

Setting off a section of text that is particularly persuasive or informative can also catch eyes and keep them interested. Use a unique, even bold font, that makes them pay attention.

Tip 8  Design Elements/Graphics – Eye Candy Sweetens the Picture

Getting your web designer to input interesting, eye-catching, design features can create the finishing touch on a page. Too many pages are plain and uninspiring. The only one who can dress up that page and make it really sparkle is the web designer. You need to work with one who understands your goal of making pages work.

Your pages need to be tasty and whet their appetite for more. It leaves them wanting, so they’ll come back again and again.

In the end, your conversion rate tells you whether your content strategy is being successful.  A good scannable page built with purpose gets visitors engaged and motivated to buy. Take the time to understand the psychology behind this and what the individual components of your strategy are.


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