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October 14, 2015 By Hendrik-Jan Francke

Chunkify! Part 3: A Page People Can Scan and Get the Big Idea

Imagine - you are surfing the web researching a new business service. You click on a few search results. Open the first link when…BAM!

Holy Smokes! That’s a ton of content! Are you reading a novel or a web page? You try to scan the page, but you are not finding what you need in the text-heavy paragraphs.

Maybe the page has what you need. But you don’t have time to search with “maybes”.

You skedaddle on to the next search result.

Walls of Text are Intimidating!

You want to welcome your users with open arms, not scare them away. Long paragraphs create intimidating walls of text. These walls are not inviting, so users will not read your content. Slapping them with all the information at once won’t allow them to digest the content.

Invite Users to Scan by Breaking up Copy

Instead of confronting users with a great wall of text, create smaller bits of info. Scannable copy is the center of effective web writing.

Scannable Copy Is More Than Small Chunks

Short paragraphs don’t necessarily equal scannable copy. Users should be able to read the headlines without the paragraphs and still understand the point of your page.

Think of headlines as the “skeleton” of your post, the bones that hold your post up. Without the “meat” of the paragraphs, users should still be able to identify what the page is about.


Left: Ouch! Ran right into that wall of text!. Right: Yes! I see 4 headlines that tell me what this page is about!

How to give the big idea without supporting copy

Start With the Real Value

What will get a user engaged? Start with that information first. Then follow with the juicy details. Use The Inverted Pyramid style of writing. In web writing, it helps put the important information users want above the fold.

A Heading for Every Paragraph – It Will Make Your Writing Better

Headlines work like magic. They break up text and make scanning easier. Paragraph headings let people know if they need to read the paragraph. Remember, use a heading of 5-10 words to encourage the user to read the paragraph of 24-26 words.

Front Load Headlines With Value

pDRGMF4VB5nU8beseOvsnJbsiTfKWGz_htdMaOE2kvznj_6OddmlOsRQavFKsZ-nbOTnwyOlOLpyqFbmkSi15vBxaDYdTQ6k2vExKpw3Zgj-nrqJdOm9Qa7vBhx9iF7_x2lc2TdeFront-load headlines with the “good stuff.” Put the power and the benefit in the first three words, because that's what users scan first. Front-loading helps start with the main point.

Which CTA is Front-Loaded? →

If you chose the second CTA, you're right. The first starts with unimportant information. In the second - Wham! - 20% off is right in front. That's the benefit users want to know!

Speaking of paragraphs, keep them short. 2-3 line paragraphs are easier to scan.

One line paragraphs add emphasis.

It might not be the essay format 16 years of school hammered into your brain. But you're not writing essays. You're writing blog posts.

Use Lists to Draw Eye to Main Points

Creating eye-catching content is half the battle. Lists draw the eye of the user, make sure the lists are loaded with important and enticing information. This will highlight a few necessary key points on your page.

Keep an eye out for Part 5 in the series where we focus on lists.

Formatting Helps Users Scan

Proper formatting and good typography can work wonders. They help users find the key info they’re looking for. This will be a labor of love between you and your designer.

One Page Exercise: Add Headline to Each Paragraph

Improve your page! Add a front-loaded headline to each paragraph.

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