Designing scannable content

Is your content structured well? Is it top-loaded and front-loaded? Does it look clear and uncluttered on screen? Does it invite users in or repel them with a wall of words? These exercises will help you make some improvements.

Exercise 1

Select a page you published recently.

Print the page and get a highlighter pen.  Highlight the most important:

  • Message on the page
  • Phrase in each paragraph
  • Two words in each heading, list item (if you have lists), link label (if you have links).

Review the highlighted text and ask yourself:

  • Is your most important information near the top of the page or paragraph?
  • Are the most important words at the start of each heading, list item, link?

If you need to improve the page, you might want to read:

Exercise 2

Select a page you created recently.

Check the order of the information.

  • How far down is the key message or most important piece of information? Should it be higher up?
  • How could you rework the page to move the message up closer to the start?

Exercise 3

As an experiment, start drafting your next page by writing all the headings and sub-headings first.

When you’ve finished, consider whether this helped you structure your page well.  If it worked well, try it again next time.

Exercise 4

Check the last 5 pages you published.

For each page, on a sheet of paper write only the headings from the page.

  • Would a user get a good idea of what the page is about just by reading the headings? If not, how could you improve the headings?
  • Are the most important words at or close to the start of the heading? If not, can you rewrite the headings?

Exercise 5

Select a page that is mostly text in paragraphs.

  • Does each paragraph focus on a single topic? How could you rewrite any paragraphs that contain more than one topic?
  • Are any paragraphs too long? How could you shorten them?
  • Do you really need your first paragraph, or is it just a fluffy introduction?

Exercise 6

Select some pages that have lists (dot points or numbered lists) on them.

  • Are lists used sparingly or overdone?
  • Are any lists too long?
  • Does each item in each list start with a unique word?
  • Are the items written in parallel style?

Rewrite any lists that you should improve.

Exercise 7

Check any of your pages that have several links included in the content.

  • Are there a lot of links? Are they all necessary?
  • How well positioned are the links? Do they make the page look too cluttered?  Could you reposition them to make the page easier to scan?