Why the words on your site matter more than ever

February 24th, 2013 by piers | No Comments

It’s easy to imagine that words on websites are becoming redundant in an era of  gorgeous high-res photography, audio, video and animated information graphics. But as some new research highlights, when people want to find something out online they want to read text first. Nice pictures, whizzy technology – that comes later.

And it turns out this is just as true for people in their 20s as it is for people in their 50s and 60s. Audio, video and information graphics are all less popular.

Why? Because if you’re searching online there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of sites that could have what you want. So when you first visit a website, you instantly assess whether it’s going to be useful. A photograph might look nice, but it’s not going to give you the specific information you want. So your eye orientates to text: tell me what this site offers me.

The lesson for any business marketing or selling products or services online is this: pay the greatest attention to your website’s key messages. Your most prominent web content in particular (home page, the top of your high level secondary pages, about us page) is what people will use in those first few seconds when they arrive at your site and make a snap judgement about whether you’re what they want or just a waste of their time. You’ve got less than 10 seconds to tell them that you have what they want.

That’s not to say graphics, images and audio/visual don’t have an important role to play. They do. Part of that initial high-speed assessment involves working out if the website has the right style or feel. Is this classy enough, or cool enough, or friendly enough, or easy to use enough.

Use graphics to generate atmosphere, to position your brand, to get people looking, to make them feel nice (or however you want them to feel). Use audio or visual to engage them in more depth.

Use words to get a specific message across to your site visitors.

Words on your website matter more than ever – and that’s before we even talk about the importance of content to search engines.

But finding the right words, to convey the most effective messages, in the most attractive tone of voice, is no easy task. And if you get the words wrong, the ideas won’t even go in.

Here’s a summary of the research findings.

Posted in Content usability, Copywriting, tone of voice, Web content