Scrolling is the preferred form of website exploration on mobile devices. However, it's easy to ruin that scrolling user experience when you fill a smartphone screen with paragraphs of text. People like scrolling because they like to be engaged. They like exploring. They like scanning. They like learning.
And most importantly — they don't like reading. With this in mind, I see way too many good websites completely ruined by too much text.
Calls to actions are buried. Pictures are nowhere to be found. Paragraphs upon paragraphs discuss in detail school programs, what makes the school unique, and different course offerings — the list goes on and on.
I hate to break it to you, but almost no one is reading it.
Today's users are scanners, meaning they're looking for quick-to-understand-and-digest information. And especially on school websites, they're looking for answers to specific questions like:
- What is your tuition?
- What programs do you offer?
- What sports teams do you have?
- What sets your academics apart?
So, stop cramping my scroll and start improving your school website's user experience with these seven tips.
Website Content Planner
1) Write Killer Headlines
On average, 80% of users will only read your headline. Another 20% will go on to read your entire page or article. Headlines provide you with the opportunity to both entice the reader, and let them know the information that they'll find on the page.
Write headlines that are:
- Descriptive: they should answer the question, what information will I find here?
- In sentence case: 64% of readers prefer reading headlines that aren't written in capitals.
- Certain: avoid ambiguity at all times.
2) Use bulleted lists to make content easy to scan.
Web users are skilled at selecting important information at a glance, which explains why 70% of users read information when it's provided in a bulleted-list-form. No matter how relevant or well-written your content is, it will go unnoticed unless it caters to the way readers process information at a glance.
Think of bullets are your ideal opportunity to quickly answer the questions that visitors come to a particular page on your site looking for — like this example from The Episcopal School of Dallas.
Here are a few tips for using bullet points in your copy:
- Think of each bullet point as a mini headline: it should compel the reader.
- Don't use write an outline. Keep it to a simple list to avoid confusion.
- Keep bullet points short. One to two lines is the optimal length for each bullet point.
- Less is more. Too many bullet points diminish the purpose of highlighting main points.
In one study, Moz increased a page's length by 500 words, but cut bounce rates by 30% just by implementing new easy-to-scan structure.
3) Use accordions and tabs.
Similar to bullets, accordions and tabs organize content. However unlike bullets, it allows the user to be selective about the content they'd like to read.
Accordions and tabs are great for mobile devices because their expandable nature keeps content concise and easy to click. They are ideal for satisfying the needs of both scanners, and readers who want just a little more detail.
Choate makes it easy to learn about each stage of the application process in an organized layout using accordions.
Or, if you want to get really creative, combine accordions with short, testimonials like Lakeside School does. The combination of short, heartfelt testimonials and photos creates a much more enjoyable and personable when learning about the student experience.
4) Stop explaining everything.
A one-minute video is worth 1.8 million words. So in other words, videos and pictures speak for themselves.
When designing your website, ask yourself, can a picture or video better represent what I am trying to say? Pictures — and especially videos — are easier for viewers to process in a short amount of time. Additionally, viewers are more likely to recall a picture or video over written content.
How cool is this example from International School of Boston? Rather than writing paragraphs about each of their programs, they have a thumbnail with a short description:
5) Optimize images for the web.
It's not just text that ruins the scrolling experience, but images, too. Images that are not optimized for the web have the potential to hinder the user experience because they take a long time to load.
Don't have the time to optimize for the web? Your website visitors don't have time to wait.
- 73% of mobile users say they've visited a website that loaded too slow
- 47% of consumers expect a website page to load in 2 seconds or less
- A 1 second delay in a page response can result in a 7% decrease in conversions
6) Test your content out before you hit publish.
Paragraphs of text look like a lot more to digest when viewing from a mobile device than on your desktop.
Back in 2008, Nielsen reported that web page users only have the time to read about 28% of content on a page, and 20% is even more likely. Fast forward to 2015, and that number hasn't swayed much.
Use a device preview tool to test out the way your content looks on mobile devices before you hit publish. If your page is pretty text-heavy, consider implementing some of the strategies in this post to make it easier to read on mobile.
7) Always consider page hierarchy.
The way you structure a page greatly impacts readability. As a general rule of thumb, strong information architecture has the power to increase conversions and decrease bounce rates because it means that you've carefully planned the organization and structure of each page on your school's website.
In this example from Episcopal Collegiate School, we can easily scan the page to find the:
- Website Section: Campus Life
- Page Title: The Promise of Exploring the Possibilities
- Important Text (directly below page tile)
- Quote: In green
Even if a user decides to not read the entire page, their eyes are immediately drawn to the page's most important content.
Consider setting up each page's content in this order to improve the scrolling experience:
- First: A headline to describe the page's information
- Second: A sub headline that appeases scanners
- Third: 1-2 short paragraphs of text about the topic broken up by bullets and other callouts — like a quote, bold font, or a second sub-headline
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.