March 30, 2017
Because people tend to read differently on the Web than they do offline, content for a website should be structured differently than it is for an article or print piece.
Online, people tend to scan for keywords that correspond to the information they are looking for and only read further if they come across them. You can't count on your audience to read as deeply on your website as they would with a long-form document, which is why it's important that your Web content is properly structured to promote engagement. Breaking up, or "chunking," your content into shorter sections also helps readers retain information. Therefore, a proper content strategy for your website should focus on both how your writing is presented on the page and how you craft individual content elements such as headlines, subheadings, and captions.
Formatting Your Text
Using a typographic hierarchy on your website is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your content is structured properly. Typographic hierarchies use formatting elements such as size, color, and font effects to establish an order of importance for your content. When done correctly, the result is much easier for your readers to skim, find the information they are looking for, and retain what they read.
The two-part example below shows how powerful a typographic hierarchy can be in terms of effectively structuring content:
The list of bands in the above example is difficult to scan. Imagine trying to find your favorite band's upcoming concert on an entire page of listings like this!
Here we can see the power of typographic hierarchy. Readers can easily make out that the names of the bands are in larger bold text and the date and time of the concert is in green italic text, which helps them scan the list and quickly find the information they need.
Proper text formatting not only helps readers find the information they are looking for, it also encourages people to spend more time on the page and engage more deeply with your content. But text formatting can only take you so far. Structure also extends to the content itself. In all likelihood, your organization uses a content management system (CMS) to produce, edit, and store the content on your website. Typically, CMSes have fields for entering specific types of content that are then displayed in a certain way on your website. Following a few simple guidelines for your content fields can help ensure that your content is optimized for the Web.