One afternoon years ago when our three kids were preschoolers, a neighbor came over and asked to use my phone. She was locked out, and this was before any of us had cell phones.
As she stood in the living room talking on the phone, I happened to look around the room and noticed it looked like a small tornado had swept through. There was stuff everywhere — toys, clothes, books. Evidence of three active children and a mom trying to keep up with them.
It was embarrassing!
I told myself from then on I’d try to keep at least the main living area of our home picked up. If someone dropped in unexpectedly, I didn’t want them greeted by clutter, but by order. I haven’t always succeeded, but that became my goal.
While your neighbors, friends and relatives are likely to forgive a cluttered and messy home, your website’s visitors are very unlikely to wade through clutter on your site. They’re more likely to click out within seconds rather than take the time to try to decipher your message.
There are many ways to keep your website “picked up” and welcoming:
Keep your font size large
Stick to 14 or even 16-point type and it’ll be easier to read. Studies have shown over and over again that reading on a screen is harder on the eyes than reading in print. A larger font size will help make reading your site easier, especially if there’s a lot of information.
Stick to dark type on a light background
Again, studies have shown that it’s just easier to read, whether print or onscreen. If you like a dark background on your site, place your text in a light text box. You’re doing your readers a favor.
Keep paragraphs short
One glance at a full page with long paragraphs is enough to scare most readers away. It looks intimidating and like a lot of work to get through. Most visitors won’t bother. Breaking up short paragraphs with a double space adds breathing room and looks more inviting.
Many of your visitors won’t read all your content, but they’ll skim it to see if it’s worth their while. If you have subheads sprinkled throughout the copy that highlight the main points, the skimmers will still have a good idea of what your content is about. It invites even your busiest readers to find the main points quickly.
Rather than listing items in a paragraph, list them as bullet points. The skimmers will read those, too.
Write clearly and conversationally
Just because you’re a business doesn’t mean your readers want to read “business-ese.” Being professional doesn’t mean being stuffy and formal. (Now if we could just get insurance companies, lawyers and congressmen to believe that!)
Your readers most likely won’t stop long enough to try to figure out your jargon and tech talk. They’ll click away and not come back.
Have one focal point for each page
Have you been to sites that have so many sidebars, graphics, flashing cartoons and pop-up boxes that you get a headache? That’s like my toy-and-clothing-strewn living room!
Get rid of the clutter. Draw your reader to the main point (usually the headline) and keep the rest of the page neat and orderly.
If you’re already doing these things — congratulations! Your visitors feel welcome and won’t have to work hard to see what you’re about.
Maybe you recognize some clutter on your site after reading this. Take time to make some changes. Since you only have a matter of seconds before your visitors choose to click away, do what you can to encourage them to come in and stay awhile.
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