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Web users tend to scan content (usually in an “F” pattern) rather than read it word-by-word. So we must present the most pertinent information where they’re most likely to see it: right at the beginning.

Last week, I touched on how this principle applies to Title Tags. But really, it applies just about everywhere:

  • Main Navigation
  • Secondary Navigation
  • Product Categories and Subcategories
  • Menu Items
  • Title Tags
  • Page Titles
  • Headline and Subheads
  • Bullet Points
  • Lists
  • First sentences of paragraphs
  • FAQs
  • Inline Links

Below are several tips on how to make your meaning clear to users in the fewest possible words.

Zero in on the first 1-3 Words

Assume readers will only see the first couple of words — or first 10-15 characters. Will they be able to understand what you’re writing about?

For utmost clarity, put the most descriptive words first. For example, compare these headlines:

  • Announcing Our Latest Smartphone Offerings
  • Smartphones – New Releases

Use numerals rather than spelling out numbers

To save space and to speed user understanding, it’s usually better to use numbers rather than words. For example, compare:

  • Top Twenty-Five Smartphones
  • Top 25 Smartphones

Grab attention with action or user-centered words

Long, vague words can obscure your meaning and put visitors to sleep. Use short, punchy words that illustrate a benefit to your visitors. Compare:

  • Proven Methodologies for Increasing Intelligence
  • Boost Your IQ – Proven Methods

Use Plain Language

Avoid made-up names; use the terminology your visitors will expect. Compare:

  • Tropical Thunder
  • Subwoofer

Finally, be specific. Ensure each list item or link is clearly distinguishable from the others. When writing a list of similar products, focus on what differentiates them.

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