Clean up your web content with these handy household products
Would you believe that washing machines can help you clean up your content? They can. Not literally, of course. But metaphorically, they're a great help.
Washing machines come in two basic types: top-loaders and front-loaders. This can present a dilemma for washing machine buyers, who have to make a choice. But web writers can, and should, use both.
'Top-loading' is bringing the most important information to the top. You can apply this principle to documents as well as web pages, and to a whole website if you like. Here are a few ways you can top-load your web content.
Start your page with the most important information. This might be the main message, the key finding, the most frequently used information, what most people want, or the conclusion of an article.
If you top-load, you make the most useful content more visible and faster to access. You also help people using your site on a mobile device, where small screen sizes mean longer pages and more scrolling.
Order paragraphs using the top-loading principle. Under each heading in your content, think about which paragraph is most important. Put that one first. Paragraphs providing detail, reasoning or background can follow.
Within paragraphs, you'll usually have more than one sentence. Get right to the point by starting with the most informative one. The sentences that follow can explain or build on this, but try to lead with the one you know your readers will benefit from most.
'Front-loading' is starting with the most informative words. If you can do this, you make each part of your content easier to see. This help when users are skimming over your page trying to decide whether to stop and read or move on. Here are some ways to front-load your content.
We know we should write meaningful headings, but it's even better when we start headings with the most meaningful words. Watch out for question-style headings as they may slow readers down.
Don't write links that tell people 'click here to ...' or 'read more about ... '. Instead, start with the most informative words. It's fine to lead with an action ('Apply now', for example), but clicking and reading are obvious and therefore wasted words.
Lists (bulleted or numbered)
Start each item with meaningful words. Use a lead-in sentence to help avoid repeating the same word at the start of each item.
Checking your load(ing)
We don't want our load of washing, or our content, unbalanced. So here's a handy way to check if you've used top and front-loading.
- Print out your page
- Get a highlighter pen
- Mark the most important:
- Message on the page
- Paragraph under each sub-heading
- Sentence in each paragraph
- Words in each heading, link, list item.
This method makes it easy to see how well you've 'loaded' your content. If necessary, 'rinse' (edit) and repeat.
These articles, all on other websites, discuss the benefits of top and front-loading content.
- Putting your main message first saves time
- Inverted pyramids (structure)
- Horizontal attention leans left
- Scrolling and attention
- F-shaped pattern for reading web content
- First 2 words: a signal for the scanning eye
- FAQs: why we don't have them
- Writing hyperlinks: salient, descriptive, start with keyword