7 tips for editing digital content
You did everything right: smart user research, efficient wireframes and alterations, beautiful design and flawless code. It was a long journey, but it’s not even close to an end. While clients love to talk about design and build they often forget about the last part of the deal: understanding how this awesome tool they just spent money and time on can actually serve their product in the best way possible.
It’s true: sidebars are powerful, but only if they give the user extra value. A catchy headline is sexy, but only if it perfectly nails the bottom line. So no doubt that providing beautiful, smart tools is big fun, but there’s no replacement for well-written content. In the build process it should be equally as important as UX, graphic design and development.
All the tips and the tricks in this article are based on one old rule: Users don’t read, they only scan. So old it’s almost a cliché: shit that UX Designers have been saying since 2010 and counting. Unfortunately, it’s true. Our goal as digital writers is to help our users to scan the page in the most efficient way.
1. Refine your headline: if you don’t know it, no one else will
Print readers are much more privileged than digital readers: the page is just lying in front of them. There are sub-headlines and quotes and no clicking or scrolling are involved. If we want the digital user to read something new he needs to understand what the immediate benefit from clicking the link is. What is he going to learn? What is he going to see? Give him something to inflame his imagination. Not sure you nailed it? Try to tell someone your idea in one sentence. This is your headline. Remember: keep it short. One sentence.
2. Use sub-headlines: give your ideas a friend
Every main headline needs a friend: the sub headline. A short sentence, or two, explaining the main idea. That will help the reader to decide if she wants to scan the rest of the page. The sub-headline is not supposed to duplicate the main headline, it’s supposed to expand the idea. On the other hand it’s not supposed to give away the whole show. It’s just a sneak-peek: learn how to tease your readers.
3. Secondary headlines: don’t be afraid of long articles
Unfortunately there is no magic formula for how many words an article should contain. The good news is that every over-complicated article can be tamed with the use of secondary headlines. Read your article, find paragraphs with similar ideas and join them together under one headline. You just made your reader’s life much easier.
4. Pictures: not just for fun
Besides adding colour and interest to the article pictures have another important role: to make spaces between paragraphs and give the reader a chance to breath. Pictures can demonstrate ideas as well as any paragraph and ease the reading experience on a long page.
5. Balance your paragraphs: not too long, not too short
Long paragraphs are heavy and hard to read. On the other hand short sentences that aren’t linked together will fail to demonstrate their ideas. It’s not easy to find the right balance between the two. Each paragraph should represent one idea and should consist of a general sentence and demonstrations. Splitting paragraphs into staccato lines makes it difficult to scan or to read, and doesn’t contribute to the general idea.
6. Sidebar: let it do its magic
Sidebars are a very popular and efficient tool, especially in classic blog templates. It gives the option to add complimentary content to the main field and helps users navigate easily to other parts of the website. But before using them it’s important to understand what benefit the user is going to get from them. An option to explore more? An option to read something related? Before starting to fill the sidebars with calls to action and ads think about other content you can provide for a richer experience.
7. Be consistent: use more of the same
Think about your target audience and then think about the best way to talk to them: Cheeky? Funky? Polite? As soon as you decide on a tone, stick with it. Just like you don’t want to switch fonts or change the size of a headline in the middle of the page you don’t want to change the way you address your users.