I like to think of content formatting like salt. Not formatting your content is like throwing away your salt shaker. It doesn’t matter how many hours you put into Julia Child’s beef bourguignon if you don’t add any salt. Salt is what makes things taste awesome. In the same way if you spend days or weeks on end perfecting the most awesome content, but forget to spend five minutes formatting your content, it is all for naught. This article will show you five content formatting techniques that make your content easier to read and generally up your level of design.
People, including yourself, find it easier to consume content when it is broken up in to chunks. No one wants to read 1,000 words in size 12pt font. This is especially true online.
Most likely if you are building a website for your small business, it is because you want visitors to become clients. That means that the majority of your website traffic will come from new visitors. People who are seeking out your services are trying to find the answer to their question as quickly as possible. And you have about 10 seconds of their attention before they are going to write you off and move on to the next search result.
Content formatting is critical when you only have seconds to capture a visitors attention.
If you are not taking content formatting steps then you are going to lose those visitors simply because your content was too difficult and cumbersome to read.
Also, do you really think you would have gotten this far into this blog post if I didn’t have heading and sexy photos. Probably not, and definitely not to the end of the article.
Ultimately you want to draw attention to the most important parts of your content. Using headers, bolding, and other formatting styles will make your content skimmable.
While we want to use content formatting to create structure, don’t get too crazy. Too much variation, using too many colors, or making all of the font large will result in the writing equivalent of a poorly executed one man band standing in the middle of screaming children. We don’t want to create noise or dilute our brand. We want to add clarity through structure.
A bonus to content formatting: non-boring pages. Simple content pages look really vanilla when they lack formatting. Paragraph after paragraph of content is visually uninteresting. Just by using a few simple formatting techniques, you make an average page look really professional.
WordPress, and most website builders, have a built in feature for headers, just like Word. If you do nothing else, you should always use these formatting features when adding new pages to your website. Most likely, you already have some hierarchy and organization built into your content, you just need to apply it visually.
If you don’t have any hierarchy built into your content, aka if everything is the same “level”, you should still use headers. Pick out the big ideas and statements and put them at the top of sets of paragraphs as headers.
If you have a really powerful opening sentence, don’t be afraid to make the entire sentence a header. The overall idea is to visually bring the most important parts of your content to the top. So, if you have a killer opening sentence, make the most of it by making it big, bold and beautiful.
Use bold to make your content skimmable, like I’ve done in this blog article. Don’t go crazy on the bold. if everything is bold, then nothing is bold. As with all of these techniques use them carefully. Formatting is also like salt, in that too much will ruin something that was at least palatable.
Use the “align center” to call out a phrase. Most of the time I will use a combination of styles to make it stand out from the rest of the content, such as making it larger, bolder and centered. If all of your content is left justified (like this article), then centering a piece of the content on purpose will always make it stand out.
Centered, bolded content should be used super sparingly, and is most often used to drive home a point, because your eye will be drawn to it. Types of content that might get this treatment are: testimonials, a call to action, a takeaway, or a quote.
I do not recommend using the “align right” style, most of the time it just looks weird.
If all of your content is centered, don’t “align left” either. That’s weird too. Try it, it looks weird.
If you use bold sparingly, then all-caps should be like that super expensive fancy meal you order for your anniversary. People don’t like to be yelled at. If all-caps is used in the wrong way it will feel like yelling. I generally reserve all-caps for buttons and links, and mostly in a call to action.
If your particular website theme uses the same color for all of your headings and paragraphs, it is a good idea to introduce some color into your copy. Pick colors that are on brand and match your logo. Do not choose colors at random or from the standard default color pallet. You can open the “custom color pallet” to get a full range of colors. Don’t undo all of your work to make a beautiful website by using colors that don’t match your brand or the rest of your website.
Using content formatting when adding pages to your website can make it easier to read. I often see clients asking to make everything bigger, because it is all important. Your content, on the whole, tells one complete story, but ultimately there can only be one king of the hill. And if you try to make every part of your content the king of the hill, then all of your content is going to be on the same level. There should always be one piece of content that is more important than the others. Salt, formatting is salt, don’t go overboard.
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