Making your content scannable

Well-presented content that is easy to follow will encourage users to stay. The structure of content, including headings, paragraphs, lists, tables and images all contribute to the scannability of a page. Web publishers can use writing and design techniques to arrange content and to make it scannable.

Tips for making content scannable

Structure

Poor structure can result in the user not being able to find valuable information. Ensure you:

  • break content into chunks so that it is easy to read and key content is easy to find
  • group related chunks so that users can see all of the information related to the key topic
  • order information into logical sequence to help the user quickly find the information they are searching for.

Order

The order that content is displayed must be logical to the end user. As a general rule, the most important or frequently-used information should be listed first, except in the situations below:

  • People and places should be listed alphabetically, unless listing people according to hierarchy or by geographical region
  • Public holidays are listed in order of occurrence, whereas news items usually start with the latest news

Headings

Headings should stand out, making it easy for the user to find information and see what the content is about. Tips for scannable headings:

  • Break up text with headings, with headings being used for every two to four paragraphs; one paragraph under a heading is okay
  • Write clear and informative headings, clearly labelling the topic
  • Write headings in sentence case and keep them concise

Heading levels

Use the relevant heading levels as shown below:

  • Heading 1 is used for page titles and is automatically applied by the content management system when the page is created
  • Heading 2 must be used for main headings
  • Heading 3 must be used for sub-headings
  • Heading 4 should be used as needed to reflect the content structure

Note: Headings should always be nested properly. Do not skip heading levels e.g. h2 should always display under a h1, h3 under a h2, h4 under a h3 etc.

Paragraphs

  • Chunk content into single-topic paragraphs
  • Start the paragraph with a sentence relating to the topic
  • Avoiding writing paragraphs which are more than 60 words and vary paragraph lengths
  • Ensure the first paragraph is useful

Lists

Lists can make content more visible and scannable, and can quickly set out steps in a process or show related points. Lists can make your page longer, therefore try and only use them when you need to. Make sure you have:

  • used the appropriate style for your list e.g. style as dot points, unless the order or number of items in the list is important;
  • included a lead-in sentence or heading to provide context
  • not repeated the same word at the start of each item
  • created a concise list, no longer than nine items.

Links

Including links in your content can help people find out more information about a topic. Tips for using links:

  • Only include important links and do not add the same link more than once
  • Ensure the link text is informative and avoid using generic terms e.g. 'Read article about announcement in FedNews', rather than 'Click here' or 'Download'
  • Avoid including multiple links in a paragraph
  • Link reference material at the end of the text

Tables

  • Keep table design simple - try and use single header columns and rows
  • Write short and meaningful header cell labels, and keep data concise
  • Left-align header and data text, and right-align numbers
  • Include lines between rows and columns to make the table easier for users to follow

Images

  • Use images that are appropriate for the size of the screen - FedUni banners should be 713x230 pixels and general images 290x210 pixels
  • Position general images to the right side of the page so that reading can be uninterrupted
  • Do not use colour alone to convey meaning; include text labels or patterns
  • Include alternative text (alt text) on informative images, and leave it blank for decorative images