Designing scannable content

Is your content structured well? Does it look clear and uncluttered on screen? 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?

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?

Plain language works best

Learn how to plan and write accessible, easy to understand content in our Writing for the web course.

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