Use lists to improve your writing for the web

Bright Ideas & Strategies for Improving Business Websites

Chunkify! Part 5:
Using Lists to Break Up Content

Like a list, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. Here is what you need to know about using lists on your webpage.

Lists are Useful Tools in Breaking up Long Paragraphs of Content

Break up long, content-heavy paragraphs to make your page easier to scan. Use bulleted and numbered lists.

When Should You Use a List?

  • When you want to draw the reader’s eye to a series of points
  • If paragraphs are getting long and can be broken up

List Writing Tips

  • Label each list with a heading. Headings tell readers what the list is about.
  • Use 5 bullets or less. Quick Psych class refresher - human brains are optimized to remember series of 7 +/- 1. Lists of 5 or less are your best bet and easy to remember. (You know Freud would have something to say about long lists!)
  • Front-load list copy. Do I sound like a broken record yet? Well, I’ll say it again… Front-load! Users only read the first few words in a list, make them count.

List Formatting Tips

Help the eye scan through strategic formatting. Adopt these tips when writing and designing your lists.

  • Indents. Indenting lists 25px from the left margin catches the eyes attention and helps it jump up.
  • Hanging indents. The start of the second line should align with the the start of text on the first line (not with the bullet!). This helps the eye jump from list item to list item. You don’t want it to look like a paragraph- users might get lost in the text!
  • Similar line length. No one likes a jumbled mess. Keep content approximately the same length. This makes for a neat, easy to digest list. Most list items should be 1 line or 2 lines.
  • Use bold. Bolding the first few words doubles the front-loaded copy as a heading.

List Overboard! This Page Has Too Many Lists

In the spirit of the article, we went a little overboard with lists (oops!). Too many lists on a page, or lists that are too long, make the page more difficult to scan. Be sure to mix lists within paragraphs and headings.

One Page Exercise

  • Find a long, drawn out paragraph. Take this endless bulk of content and break it into lists. You’ll be happy you did it!

Are you using lists effectively on your page?

Request Your Chunkify! Score to Find Out!

About this Series:
This is the fifth article in a 7 part series called Chunkify!. Every Wednesday, we will post tips on a different tactics to make you a better writer for the web, increase average time on page, and help your copy convert.

About the Author
is the Lead Strategist of Bright Orange Thread. Reach him at hfrancke@brightorangethread.com
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