Format Your Page or Be Prepared to Lose Readers

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We revamp websites daily, so I come across many that don’t consistently format the text on their pages.

Formatting a website is important. The average reader’s attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish: eight seconds, according to a study by Microsoft. Make sure your site is user-friendly and scannable. Formatting can help you achieve this, but poor or excessive formatting can distract from the message you’re trying to convey.

Good Formatting Can Make Your Page More Scannable

Many users won’t read your entire post. They are looking for important points and quickly scan the page to find them. Using formatting (bold, italicize, underline), you can draw their eye to the information they’re looking for. Just be sure to highlight only the main points.

If you bold everything, for example, it can overwhelm your readers and they may leave your page without the information they came for. If you think something is really important, that does not mean you should change the font color, bold it, underline it, and italicize it. It looks sloppy and unprofessional, and it could drive away your readers.

Bullet points can be your best friend, but it depends how you use them. They can break up a text-heavy page and give your readers the information they need, but they need to be consistent. Don’t put a colon after bullet one, a dash after bullet two, and a period after bullet three, a la, “Bullet 1:, Bullet 2-, Bullet 3.”

Inconsistent or Poor Formatting is Unprofessional

Font matters more than you might think. When choosing a font style, again, be uniform. If you choose bold for a subheader, always do so. Don’t have a bold subheader on one page and then an italicized subheader on another. Keep colors consistent too, unless there is an obvious reason not to and you use a regular pattern (e.g., red when listing cons and green when listing pros if writing a pros and cons article).

And never have two different fonts in the same paragraph, unless there’s an obvious reason for it. It throws off your readers and distracts from your main points. Not to mention it just looks like you don’t pay attention to detail. Consistency and attention to detail on each page is key.

There’s nothing wrong with different font sizes, as long as you use them appropriately and consistently. A larger font for a subheader is appropriate; a larger word in a paragraph for emphasis is usually not.

Make sure your pages have continuity; your pages should look like they belong on the same website. The more professional your website looks, the better your company looks.

Check back next week when I’ll review organization – something that, like proofreading, is rather basic but more and more uncommon on a lot of websites.