Writing for the Web: How to KISS

 “Keep it simple stupid” or put more gently, “Keep it short and simple.” KISS is an old yet relevant reminder that simplicity is king. This phrase rings true in design and in writing for the web. In a world of information overload, it is necessary to guide your customers to the right information, quickly. You may be surprised to learn how much online users DO NOT read.

  • Users read 25% slower on a computer screen than on paper
  • Only the first 11 letters of each chunk of text is scanned by users
  • Users only read 20% of copy on a webpage

The bottom line is users are not reading what you are writing. In this post we will discuss how to address these issues and make your customers coming back for more. These web writing strategies will improve your customer experience and increase the value of your website.

No.1 Clear Headings

Use clear headings with high-level keywords to grab attention. Headings are the most scanned text on a page, so they are the most valuable. Front load each heading with recognizable keywords that clearly describe the section below. Don’t forget the KISS principle; long headings are difficult to read and lose effectiveness.

No.2 Short Summaries

Every webpage should have a short summary at the top of the page. A short summary must be informative and straightforward. A helpful tip for writing quality summaries is to start with the conclusion, highlighting the most newsworthy details first: who, what, where, when and why.

No.3 Important Information First

Important information should always go first. Explain the most important facts and then give a general background with more detail in subsequent paragraphs. You can test this with one questions:

Can you cut out the bottom half of your writing without altering the main message?

No.4 Concise Body Text

Don’t over do it in the body, keep it nice and concise. Readers love lists, so break up the body text with bulleted or numbered lists when appropriate. A general rule of thumb is web writing should be half of what you would write in a printed version. Because users read slower online, they are less likely to get through the same amount of text that is displayed in a print magazine or article.

No.5 Simple Words

Use simple vocabulary and avoid industry jargon. You may be an expert in your field, but it is more likely that your customers are not. Using excessive jargon and long-winded words actually has a negative effect on your perceived value. Studies show that users perceive a lower intelligence of the author when the text is more complex.

No.6 Visual Story Telling

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so if users won’t read your text use visual media to help communicate your message. Media can include images, gifs, videos, and galleries but they must be used appropriately and strategically. Here is a questions to test if the media hurts or helps your story.

Only after 5 seconds of looking at the photo (or media) can your users guess the main topic of the writing?

 

K.I.S.S. is an easy reminder to strive for simplicity but writing for the web can feel unnatural. Start implementing these six writing for the web strategies and keep practicing until if feels second nature, your users will thank you for it.

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