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Choosing text layout for your web site beyond keywords

May 20th, 2007 · No Comments

Many website writers that are interested in SEO focus too much in optimizing their website for the search engines and forget to give their users a good experience.

This article describes in a short way what you have to bear in mind in your web site beyond SEO.

Websites are viewed in a different way from other kinds of media. When browsing a web site, people tend to “scan” the web site more than reading it. If the information they are looking for is not in sight, they will go to the next web site. The way you present the contents of your web sites has great impact in how many potential customers stay and eventually buy your product or services.

Search engines measure the time a searcher stays in you site.

Search engines think that if a searcher stays a long time in one site, it’s because the Search engine has found the site the searcher was looking for.

For example, imagine a site that is no. 1 for a popular keyword because of other factors, but most searchers stay in the web site for less than 5 seconds. Then, the search engine can lower the ranking of the page or exclude it from the search results for that particular keyword. On the other hand, a web page that is ranked no.200 in the search results can be moved up in ranking because searchers stay in it for a long time or never go back to the search results.

Your best tactic to keep the searchers in your site is to give them what they are looking for, but also choosing a text layout that is appealing and that doesn’t scare your potential customers away.

No style
The first principle in writing and organizing web site text is simplicity. People appreciate texts that are easy to read and to understand. Stay away from pompous writing styles that will make your readers flip quickly to your competitors.

The main characteristic of a good text is that its style is invisible. The readers don’t notice the way the text is written, they only notice how easy it is to find what they are looking for.
Think of the kind of language your potential customers use but also think that if you want to appeal to a wider group of people, you must write in a way that most people like and understand. In simple words, write for your customers and not for yourself.

Components of web site text
The writing style is not the only thing that must be simple, but also the way it is displayed in the web page. Fonts, colours, spacing, size of text, balance between text and blank spaces all contribute to a display that is easy to read and that makes your web site look good. Let’s go through them one by one.

Simple fonts
The fonts are the style of letters you use to write any kind of text. This text for example, is written in an Arial font. You can choose from many different fonts available these days.

Whatever you choose, remember to keep it simple. Some fonts may look very pretty or catchy when you look at the text, but trying to read a small piece of text with an unusual font is often more annoying than pretty.

A web site using a strange font or a combination of them will send most viewers away from your site. Once again, make sure that your customers notice the information in the text and not how “funky” the fonts are.

Colours can be used differently in the text of your web site. The most basic use is the colour of the font and the colour of the background where the text is viewed. As you may have guessed the simplest combination of these two is: black letters over white background. It is the easiest way for your viewers to read your text and unsurprisingly the most used in the web.

If you change the black over white standard, make sure you have a good reason.

However, other combinations that offer high contrast and that are comfortable to the reader’s eye can also work dark blue on white, dark red on white or light cream, etc.

But by all means, avoid extreme combinations like orange letters on a bright blue background or vice versa. It is true they are opposite colours in the spectrum, and logic says they offer high contrast, but they don’t when you are reading.

For some this may sound boring or an under use of the possibilities of the Internet. But people in general use the Internet to find the right information quickly; they are attracted by the efficiency of a web site and by the way it looks when it is balanced and easy to remember.

If you decide to use different colours in your fonts for functional purposes, may be to distinguish between article and title, then use the same combinations throughout the web page. This will allow your readers to identify the important information faster and it will make your web site look more organized and attractive.

Another good reason to change the black on white is the identification of Hyperlinks, which are the parts of the contents that lead you to a different page of the web site by clicking on them. Text hyperlinks are usually words in blue and sometimes they are also underlined. You can choose any colour to identify your text hyperlinks, as long as you use the same colour throughout the web site. However, blue text hyperlinks have become a standard and having the same in your web site would make it easier on your customers.

Remember that if you decide to have text hyperlinks in blue, your titles and other text must have a different colour.

The use of bold is another tool to direct your readers attention to specific parts of the text, simply choose those words you want to pinpoint and select the bold option, but don’t over do it or you will get the opposite effect and your web site will look unprofessional.

Spacing between letters, words and paragraphs must make your text easy to read and to scan. Justifying your main text creates uneven spaces between the words and that can distract the attention of the reader away from the information in the text. The same happens when you choose to put the letters too close together or too wide apart.

Instead, try to put your text in a column that doesn’t occupy all the space available for text. These kinds of columns make the reading of the text much easier. Keep your text aligned to the left and make subtle adjustments to the spacing between letters or words when needed.

If you are using Microsoft word, select the part of the text that needs modifications, right click on it and select “Text”. Here you can choose between different levels of “tracking”, which changes letter and word space, “kerning” used to balance specific spaces when levels are inappropriate, and “leading” which controls line spacing.

You can also reform the spacing between lines to emphasize on a specific part of text, modifying a paragraph with shorter spacing and smaller font size can attract special attention to it, it can be used for testimonials, quotes or explanative remarks, for example. Regarding text spacing you have many different tools to achieve different effects, but make sure whatever solution you find is directed at making the reading easier and effective.

Size of the text
Changing the size of different parts of the text can help your customers identify the important information easily. Go from big to small, guide your readers by writing titles or headlines in a bigger size than the captions, and the captions slightly bigger than the contents, so they will know what is more important to read first. Big letters are what people read first; include the most relevant information in the titles to keep the reader interested.

For the caption, change the font size, widen the information about the text and interest the reader to continue. The body of the text must give out facts and be written in a neutral but friendly way. Remember that the work you put in creating interesting titles in the right size and mid sized captions will make the readers want to look at your text and browse further in your web site.

Balance between written space and blank space
Enough blank spaces in your web site make it easy to read, they make it look organized, pleasant and professional. Relations of up to 50% blank - 50% contents are successful, so don’t be afraid to leave empty spaces.

Blank space is not a waste of space to put information; it is an element that draws attention to the written space and relaxes the reading task. As seen in the text spacing, reduced columns of text are easier to read for most people, including those with learning disabilities or dyslexia.

Maintain the layout in all pages
All the web site pages must keep the same design. This makes the web site browsing efficient and gives it a professional look. Keep the space for text always in the same spot of the page, as well as the space for all the other components of the web site (Menu bar, name of the company, logo, links, contact details, etc).

When you apply any of the tools above, keep applying it for the same case in all the pages. Any deliberate change to the layout must be done for a reason, if you have one, try to find a layout similar to the rest of your web page. If done otherwise, you might confuse your customers to the point they might think they have entered a completely different web site.

Relevant keywords are the words that people type in the search engines when looking for your kind of web site. Take the time to find the relevant keywords for your products or services before you start writing or have someone else do a keyword report for you.

Remember to use the relevant keywords in the title, in the first 200 characters, continuously throughout the text and in the end. Don’t use the keywords where it doesn’t make sense for the user.

Learn from your competitors
Finally, when you are designing your page, do a little research on your competitors’ web sites and on best practice web sites in other industries. Look for good features and ideas that are worth using in your site.

At the same time, make your web site stands out from the competition by choosing colours and layouts that are different form theirs. A simple change in the colour and font of your company’s name or a clever logo can make the difference.

Use these tools as guidelines to experiment and to find the right features for your web site. A good layout is the result of various trials and changes. Work on it until you feel happy with the results and don’t be afraid of comparing and testing several times.

The goal is to create a web site where your customers will have no trouble finding what they want and which they will certainly remember for its effective and nice design.

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Tags: WebSite Writing

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