Text design on the web - how to get words into shape!

by Guidebook, Text design

Anyone who wants to produce web texts must know: Reading behaviour on the Internet is fundamentally different from that in print media. People do not read word for word - they primarily scan. A web text must be prepared and presented accordingly. With the right text design, you can capture the "scanners". Graphic writing and the inverted pyramid play an essential role in this. Find out here what this is all about!

It is not unusual for us to spend hours drafting the perfect article. Information is thoroughly researched, words are chosen with creative care and texts are meticulously checked for errors at the end. Unique Content just - and that's a good thing! But writing the text alone is not enough. You also have to get people to read it. Because what good are brilliant words if they don't get any attention?

The fact is: You only have a few seconds to convince users of your content. People don't read during this time, they check it out. So the first impression has to be right.

On reading behaviour on the net - scanning instead of reading

On the internet, people want quick information. Therefore, a text is not read - it is scanned:


  • The lines are not read horizontally from left to right - they are skimmed from top to bottom.
  • In only 10 seconds on average at the most, the user decides whether the content serves its purpose or not.
  • More than twice as much attention is paid to the left half of a web page than to the right (70% vs. 30%).
  • So we keep primarily to the left and only stray to the right when there are interesting impulses.
  • Most readers only perceive content in the visible area of the page and do not scroll.
  • Headlines are generally more likely to be read than the associated content.

For an author or copywriter with passion, this sounds frustrating at first. What's the point of producing good content at all if you only seem to be dealing with bookworms anyway? But don't be discouraged. The supposed reading laziness on the net has reasonable grounds:

  1. Reading on a screen is more strenuous - you read more slowly and your concentration decreases more quickly.
  2. The abundance of text information on the internet forces the user to separate the wheat from the chaff.
  3. In the back of your mind, the reader already has a certain expectation that you have to fulfil.

So scanning is a kind of "Quick check". This allows the user to decide whether it is worth paying more attention to the content. He does not perceive the text in detail at the beginning, but in fragments. In doing so, he mainly stays to the left at the beginning of the text - since we read from left to right. If he discovers relevant key words or topics while scanning, he gets stuck and looks deeper.

By the way: The crawlers of search engines tick very similarly to real users - they also expect relevant information at the beginning of the text. If you tailor the text design to the reading behaviour, you will also push your SEO optimisation.

Scan-compatible: optimal text design on the web

The reading behaviour of web users shows that the production of brilliant content is very worthwhile - it just has to be served to the user on a silver platter! This results in (at least) two basic rules to writing on the web:

  1. Important information must be placed at the beginning (of pages, paragraphs, lines...) if possible.
  2. ... and be designed in such a way that they quickly catch the eye.

The former is based on the principle of the so-called Inverted pyramid - it is about the content structure of the text. The second point relates to presenting the content in such a way that it is well perceived visually. The keyword is: graphic writing.

The inverted pyramid - important facts first!

For a longer web text applies: Always put important information - i.e. main keyword, core message and benefits - at the beginning.

In a suspense novel, it would probably be a mortal sin to tell the reader how the story ends right at the beginning. No one would want to read the book. On the internet, the situation is completely different. Web users do not need complex dramaturgy. They want conciseness and quick information. They want to know immediately who the culprit is! The reason for this is that it makes scanning easier and they are not forced to read the text to the end.

This kind of structuring, where you take the tension out of the story right at the beginning, is done according to the Principle of the inverted pyramid:

  1. Essential information belongs right at the beginning
  2. Useful supplementary details serve as support
  3. Interesting, but in principle irrelevant additional information takes up space at the end

The best way to do this is to create a crisp excerpt as a Intro that summarises the text briefly and succinctly.

Graphic writing - pimping the text visually through formatting

Using the inverted pyramid, you adapt the text structure to the reading behaviour. Next, you also need to put it into a favourable design. Graphic writing is an important aspect of the Content DesignsThis allows you to design and format the text so that it looks pretty and clear. This not only contributes to a positive overall image of the website, but also makes scanning easier.

Graphic writing is the opposite of unformatted blocks of text. You serve your text in attractive, bite-sized morsels, so to speak. This includes:

  • a meaningful headline.
  • a summary intro section, which is visually separated from the rest of the text.
  • sensible paragraphs to facilitate readability.
  • crisp subheadings for orientation and structuring.
  • Enumerations (bullet points) for information that you can present as a list.
  • Important words can be highlighted in bold - but don't overdo it or it will become confusing.
  • a call to action at the end. You can highlight this, for example, in the form of a button.
  • appropriate typography, including a legible font and pleasant line length.

Typography - the power of type

Perhaps you know the feeling that you don't like something about a website - but you can't directly grasp what it is? Not infrequently, the typeface plays a role in this. The term typography covers features such as Font, Typesetting or Line length. The font plays a not insignificant role when it comes to getting text content across well. Different fonts have different effects on the reader and influence reading behaviour enormously. Some fonts are easier to read or emphasise the content better than others. However, there is no "one" right font - it always depends on the context!

Typography is indeed an art and at the same time a science in itself and difficult for laymen to understand. Professional graphic designers can help you choose the right font for your internet presence.

Conclusion - text design on the web

When a good article is written, you have rightly earned a little time out. But don't rest on monotonous blocks of text! In order to be seen in the information jungle of the World Wide Web, you have to adapt your text to the reading behaviour of web users, both in terms of content and appearance. Don't present the reader with an indefinable uniform mash, but serve bite-sized text morsels. This means: Reveal the most important information right at the beginning, and fine-tune your text through appropriate formatting. If you take these basic rules to heart when composing your text, your article is guaranteed to get the attention it deserves!

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