Make text easy to scan and navigate

Most web users do not fully read online content. Instead, they scan pages looking for key bits of information to help them reach their goals. This makes it increasingly important to write concisely and make content easy to scan and navigate.

  • Keep sentences, lists and paragraphs short and to the point.
  • Use titles, links, headings and sub-headings to make the content easier to find and scan.
  • Place the most important and relevant text first.

Follow these standards when creating content for the web:

Be concise

All sentences and paragraphs should be short and on topic. Start sentences with the most important information and limit to one main point. Generally online text should have only half as many words as print text, but often one-quarter or even one-tenth is called for.

But shorter isn't always better. Writing succinctly is a juggling act. Cut every unnecessary word, but never sacrifice clarity for brevity.

Use the 1:3:15 rule:
One idea per sentence.
Three sentences per paragraph.
Fifteen words per sentence.

Streamline content for mobile devices. Smaller screens mean less room for information. Get straight to the point - make your message within the first ten seconds or risk losing your user.

In August of 2018, 50.43% of our website visitors were using a cell phone (mobile) or tablet to view the CCBC website.

Help the user scan by using headings, lists and links

Copy should include titles, headings, subheadings and links that break up the content and make it easy to scan. Bulleted or numbered lists also help direct the user’s eye to key points.

Headings and subheadings give readers a quick overview of what's on the page. They help keep users from getting frustrated by allowing them to quickly gauge whether or not the page content is relevant to their task. Ideally, they should define the page content as fully as possible with as few words as possible. Because users want to scan screens, splitting your page using meaningful headings, makes it easier for them to find information.

Use the headings predefined within Sitecore. See web design section for more information. Never use all caps as a header. All caps text is difficult to read, takes users more time to absorb it and can be read incorrectly by screen readers which violates our web accessibility standards.

Bullet points:
  • Cut down on words.
  • Organize content.
  • Stand out from surrounding text.
  • Slows down the scanning eye.
    • This is especially important for larger blocks of content.
Use numbered lists when the order of the points is important, otherwise use bullets.

Links also attract the scanning eye because they are formatted differently than the text around them. Choose key words to use as link labels (see section on using hyperlinks).

Hint: Think about the words or phrases your audience might type into a search engine to find your content. Use those words in your titles and headings. This makes the text easier for users to scan and helps optimize your content for site and web searches. View the Search Engine Optimization section for more information.

Be consistent

Use consistent vocabulary in link text, titles, headings and body text. Changes in terminology can easily confuse web users and lead to a frustrating experience. The college has developed nomenclature standards for some often used CCBC/website specific cases.