Have you ever attempted to read a novel by one of the famous Russian authors?
Even though the plot is brilliant, it can be almost impossible to keep track of the different names, and the sentences are so long that sometimes you can forget how one started out, in your effort to get to the end before taking a breath.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s obvious why writers like Tolstoy are celebrated, and writers like E L James with the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy aren’t. But in a way, it’s also obvious why Fifty Shades reached global popularity while ‘War and Peace’ languishes on Amazon like a rare wine that people appreciate, but don’t want to drink every day.
Fifty Shades may have been lambasted for all sorts of reasons, but being difficult to read really wasn’t one of them. People from teenagers to pensioners devoured the trilogy, showing that sometimes, readability can win out over style, content or even grammatical correctness.
So how do we capture readability on our blogs? And potentially enjoy the same success with our customers as Fifty Shades brought E L James? Here are my tips. You don’t have to be cuffed, blindfolded or spanked to use them. Bonus!
Make things easy on the eye
Just as women the world over have been swooning over the main character of Fifty Shades because he is supposed to be very good-looking, so a blog that is great to look at will make your customers respond better to what you have to say. Having a font size that is so small your readers need to squint to find out what you’re telling them is a definite mistake. As a general rule, use 14px font size as an absolute minimum. As the characters in Fifty Shades will attest, size really does matter!
Give your writing lots of space
It can be really offputting to try and read a page online that is crammed full of writing, with cramped line spacing and no paragraphs to break things up a bit. Unless you want your blog to be likened to a particularly unapproachable Russian epic novel, use lots of space between paragraphs to help your readers get your points easily and quickly. We automatically switch off when our brains encounter huge swathes of text, so avoid losing your readers by making sure the page looks accessible when they first open it. Try a line height of around 24px to let your words be read.
Check your colour scheme
Fifty shades of grey may be great for pulp novels, but it’s about as bad as it gets for a web page. The best possible shade for your blog is actually black on white, as it makes your text stand out in sharp contrast to the background of the page, making it easy to read. Low contrast is not only tough to read, it diminishes the power of your writing by making it fade and blend with the rest of the site.
Keep things short and sweet
Sentence length makes a huge difference to the readability of your blog. The reason why Russian novels are hard work to read is because most of them favour really long sentences without much punctuation that can leave the reader feeling frustrated at how long it takes to read them and doesn’t give them any opportunity to pause for breath in between each point as they naturally would if they were speaking or simply reading aloud to themselves. See what I mean? Much better to use shorter sentences, and reader-friendly punctuation.
Break your text up with headings
It’s much easier to read a large piece of writing if the author has split it in to natural sections, with sub-headings. Instead of presenting your customers with a large page of unbroken text, pop in headings that give them an idea of what is coming next, so they get comfortable with the rhythm of your writing.
Pictures are so much more easy for our brains to assimilate than text. With just a few well planned images, you can say a huge amount on your chosen subject without having to go in to reams of explanation. Think of how a cartoon gets its point across, even though there are very little words to go with each story. If you have complex ideas to impart, consider using images to explain what you mean. Even popping in a few pictures just to complement your text will make your pages more approachable and customer-friendly than plain old text.
I may not be a personal fan of the writing style and content in the Fifty Shades trilogy, but I do appreciate how the books came to be so popular. Easy to read, different, and approachable, they have a few qualities that every good blog owner should adopt. You may not get global success and worldwide fame through your blog writing, but you will make your blog easier to read and more informative for your customers by following these simple rules.
Spank your competitors in to submission by providing your customers with a great layout, simple writing, and an optimised font.
Have you read a great book that has inspired you to design / change your blog? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
photo credit: captain.orange