Lede (lead), transitions, closing – check. Sound research, supporting facts, eye-catching headline – check. Full editing checklist – completed. You’ve got the perfect web article. It’s going to gain thousands of hits, right? One question: how does it look?
Writing for the web is different than writing for print publications. Magazine articles have a lot of help to look pretty for the reader. On the net, many pieces are like the ugly duckling – inside there is a bevy of beauty, but no one can get past the outside. The majority of articles need to be visually appealing for readers to click, stay and link.
When people pick up a magazine they often go straight to the headline story that captured their attention, but they are mentally ready to settle in for a good long read. People read web articles with a different mindset. These people hop on the net, look for information/news and once found, they scan for important points and main ideas. They don’t want to give a lot of time to a piece unless it’s critically important or if they are in deep research mode – like in the case of government conspiracies or celebrity sex tapes.
Admit it, you’ve clicked on an article only to see paragraph after long paragraph of words and thought, “Oh I don’t have time for this.” In fact, I’d wager people do it more often than they care to admit, which is why white space is needed.
White space refers to the paper or in this case, screen space people see when they look at a page. In other words, row after row of 20 sentence paragraphs – not appealing to the eye. It’s like your neighbor who takes off his shirt to mow the lawn only to expose his shirt made of human hair. Breaking up paragraphs into smaller bite size pieces is like giving your furry neighbor a shirt. The stuff’s still there but now it looks better.
Bullet points help as well. It tells the skimmer, “Here are the important points, cut up and chewed for you.”
Photos help break up all those pesky words and brighten up the piece. Take hairy neighbor again, put him in front of a wind machine, add a professional photographer and said neighbor becomes rugged and manly. Photos help illustrate the point and mood of the article.
Let’s face it writers, while most people know words and reading are necessary, most don’t value them as much as we do. Look at this period . Isn’t it beautiful? A beautiful dot that represents so much – a pause, a finished thought or if you have three of them … an unfinished thought. Literary ants marching to the next set of words if you will… We appreciate it. Everyone else? Slap a shirt on it so they are not bored or horrified.
Visual appeal in web writing is nearly as important as the words. Beautifully crafted and executed articles with great visual appeal are sure to land more hits and links than boring pages full of dense text. Take a look at your pieces to make sure they look as wonderful as they read.