Optimize for scannable copy

1. Include the value proposition in the first 2 sentences to grab your readers' interest.

Start your copy with the most important information, why your product matters. Then add important details, and finish with background information and context.

2. Write short sentences with no more than 80 characters per line and 3-4 lines maximum in a paragraph.

Short sentences seem like less of a commitment to read, so less overwhelming. Simple sentences void of any complicated structures have the same impact. Big blocks of text are daunting.

3. Use descriptive subheadings that summarize what the reader will learn in the following paragraph.

Subheadings help sort and organize copy. Avoid vague or clever headlines, to help people who are scanning the copy rather than reading every word. On a long page, use different background colors and images to show a separation between sections, such as, how it works and testimonials.

4. Increase the font to 14-16px, use at least 24px line spacing, and use Sans Serif fonts to make reading easier.

Large font is easier to read, so try 14-16px at least. The more space there is between two lines of text, the easier it’ll be to read or scan. Aim for a 24px space. Light gray text on a white or gray background has low contrast, making it difficult to read. Black font on a white background has high contrast, making it easier to read – although too high a contrast can cause accessibility issues. Very light gray on very dark gray will typically avoid triggering accessibility issues while providing contrast. Despite Serif fonts dominating print, Sans Serif is easier to read online.

5. Use simple language and everyday common phrases, but avoid jargon to make it easier for people to engage with your copy.

Cognitive fluency is essentially the measure of how easy it is to think about something. As humans, we prefer to think about things that are easy to think about. High cognitive fluency means something is easy to think about, meaning people will be more willing to engage with the copy. Write the way most people speak, simply and concisely. The average American reads at a 7-8th grade level, so use basic words and simplify your concepts. Be aware of the jargon and industry speak you use. Avoid bringing that into your copy unless you’re specifically looking to attract people as familiar with the industry as you are.

6. Add your edited text to your website and then ask a group of people to read your website copy while seated, standing up, or taking a step back.

Observe if they are spending more time than necessary to read the copy or if they struggle to read it, like leaning closer to the screen.

7. Use readability test tools such as WebFX to score the readability of your copy.

These tools determine readability based on the number of syllables, the number and length of words and sentences, and active vs passive voice. For best results, test using multiple tools as they all measure readability slightly differently. If you struggle to develop high-scoring copy, have people within your target demographic use your product or service and then describe it in their own words. Then use those words in your copy.

8. Test the comprehensibility of your text by asking participants to perform routine tasks, answer questions about what they read, explain the benefits to themselves, and fill in blanks in the text.

Use Hotjar to track participants performing routine tasks on your site. Ask how they interpret the copy, and see whether it leads them in the right direction or leaves them confused. Ask participants a series of questions about what they just read, using a tool like UserTesting.com. Do they recall your three core benefits, your value proposition, the name of someone who gave a testimonial, and your button copy? Ask participants to explain how the product helps them achieve their goals, using a tool like Decibel Insight. Memory testing will tell you if they remember you, but proficiency testing will tell you if they understand you.  Run a Cloze Test on a tool like Cloze Test Creator by removing every x words and replacing them with blanks, the higher x is, the easier the test is. If people can fill in the blanks without difficulty, your copy is easy to comprehend.

9. Use existing mental prototypes about how your site should look, how your product or service should work, and how your copy should read.

It’s easier to comprehend something if it’s similar to something we already know. That’s why so many startups identify as “like x for x” or why you read phrases like “the best x since x”: if people have a point of comparison, they don’t need to think as much, which means there is higher cognitive fluency.

10. Use images like infographics and charts, to cater for visual learners.