When people arrive on your website you want them to stay, read a bit and take action.  However, many websites find people leave quite quickly and they don’t get as many enquiries/sign ups/sales/click throughs as they were hoping for.  This is usually for one of four reasons:

  1. The copy doesn’t engage them
  2. The design turns them off
  3. They can’t find what they want easily
  4. Something they wouldn’t be able to put their finger on if you asked them, but it just makes connecting with your message difficult and they can’t be bothered making the effort.

This is readability.  It’s subtle, but there are quite a few things that prevent people from getting your message and are easy to fix.  These are the basics of readability – and why they’re important.

Headlines – people need to get your message quickly and a nice big engaging headline is a great way to do that.  ‘Services’ is not a headline, but ‘Discover how to make your life much easier’ is.  It needs to at least 18 point, bold and right in prime real estate – that’s under your branding (and a horizontal menu if you have one), but not too far down the page.

Fonts – screen resolution (clarity) is 96 dots per inch (dpi); print is at least 300 dpi.  This means that you need to stick to a nice clean font to ensure it doesn’t go ‘fuzzy’.  Arial, Verdana, Tahoma and Trebuchet all work well, stay away from Times New Roman, Georgia, Palatino and Garamond as they are serif fonts with additional embellishments and result in making the reading experience harder.

Images – if you’ve got moving images ensure they don’t keep distracting your reader from your message.  Ideally, put control of the images in the hands of the user with forward and back buttons.  Images give your pages energy and life, but they need to help you make your point and should not be simply decoration.

Positioning – where images and text are alongside each other the image should always be on the right.  We read from left to right and scan pictures from top to bottom, so if your image is on the left there is a danger that people will scan down the image and read underneath it instead of alongside it.

Colours – stick to darker writing on a lighter background.  If your writing is lighter than its background your reader will need to squint to read successfully and many will just switch off and leave.  Reversed out writing creates dazzle and is a barrier between your message and the reader.

Checking – get someone else to check your spelling, how things present on different browsers and whether your links work (and keep checking at least monthly).  This won’t be noticed by your reader – but if you don’t do it and mistakes occur it plants a seed of doubt regarding your attention to detail.  It’s a subliminal message you don’t want people to get!

These are just a few things that make your website keep visitors longer.

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