5 tips on clicking and scrolling

Keyboard and mouseNo – not rocking and rolling – but the on screen equivalent!  Someone, somewhere made a ‘rule’ that you should be able to arrive at the page you want in no more than three clicks.  Then someone else also made a ‘rule’ that said a menu should not have more than nine or ten tabs on it.  If you have a website with a great deal of information the three click rule isn’t going to work here!

Then there’s yet another ‘rule’ that says that people won’t read more than two screens down a web page – so that means that pages have to have a small amount of information.  Besides, who decides how big the reading screen is?  In today’s world of smartphones, tablets, wide screens and notebooks how long is a screen?  Establishing where the ‘fold’ occurs is almost impossible.

So what is a poor website owner to do?  Here are my tips:

1.  Think carefully about the structure of your website before you start adding content (ideally before you ask a designer to create the visuals).

  • What is a logical arrangement of pages so that people can find what they are looking for easily?  
  • More clicks are better than more menu tabs, which many people just find overwhelming.  
  • However, the subpages need to be found under main menu choices that are obvious.

2.  Ensure you are clear on the purpose for each page .

  • What do you want your website visitor to DO when they’ve looked at the page?
  • How much information do you really need to give them in order to persuade them to do that?  
  • Only include the essentials – people don’t need to know how you do what you do, only what they get.  
  • And don’t forget your call to action.

3.  Don’t bury key pages in sub menus

  • You should include Home, About and Contact on the main menu.  
  • Also anything that you want people to find easily – FAQs, Case studies, blog.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t also link to these pages from other pages further down the pecking order on your menu, but if you think people will want to get to those quickly, put them where they can see them.

4.  Don’t fall into the trap of clever page names – stick to the obvious, it cuts down on people having to think about whether that page is what they think it is.  Some may not bother!

5.  If you have five services don’t create a page where they are all on a single page, one below the other.  

  • If they don’t see what they are looking for in the first screen or two, some people won’t bother to scroll any further and you could miss out on a lead.
  • Blogs and articles can have longer pages – people expect to see these on a scrollable page.

Just because tablets and smartphones are easier to scroll on don’t assume that everyone is viewing your site on one of these.  Acknowledge web-users comfort zones.  Make it easy for people to get around your site and it will work much  better for you.


What stops people reading your message?

Broken barrierPutting a barrier between your message and your reader makes absolutely no sense at all, but it’s surprising how many companies make it hard for people to process the information presented to them.  Of course, nobody does this deliberately, but also few organisations know how to check for those things that trip their readers up and leave them frustrated or simply reaching for the back button (online) or the paper recycling bin (offline).

There are many blogs in the Readability category that outline the hazards of online issues, but fewer about the hard copy material you distribute.  These are some of the pitfalls associated with marketing flyers, brochures, leaflets and booklets that you will certainly avoid – once you know about them.

Common to online and offline material

Dark backgrounds with lighter writing.  Even though the resolution for print is sharper, ordinary sized (10-12 point) font cuts the background up and creates a dazzle effect.  It’s really hard on the eyes and the brain is working so hard to decipher what the letters are that the message can easily get lost in the process.  This reduces comprehension levels.

Headlines that are in all capitals – with no shape to the word this makes reading and understanding harder – and don’t be tempted to use a capital for each word, unless you want people to Read It One Word At A Time!

Justified text – when all the lines are the same length it’s so easy for people to get ‘lost’ and read the same line twice, or skip lines.  This just increases frustration and that isn’t the emotion that you are hoping for when you’re marketing your services or products!  Left aligned works best (centralised should only ever be used for headings, it makes your reader work too hard for paragraphs).

Very long lines of text.  Whilst most documents are not wider than an A4 sheet, which is about the longest line most people feel comfortable reading, if you are creating a trifold or gatefold don’t be tempted to extend your main text to more than 100 characters (in 10-12 point font).  This is the point where people start to actually move their head to scan back to the beginning of the next line and feel uncomfortable – next action – they stop reading.

Hard copy material

If you don’t have a company font that you use on everything, always take a look at your marketing material in two or more font options, it changes the whole look and feel of the production.  I’d recommend trying a serif font (e.g. Georgia, Cambria, Times) and a sans serif font (e.g. Arial, Tahoma, Century Gothic) to see what it looks like.

If you’re producing a paper flyer remember that people don’t always turn over paper documents.  Most people expect paper to be printed on one side only.  If your flyer has two sides you will need something in the bottom right corner – on both sides – that indicates that there is more information over the page.  This doesn’t apply to documents printed on card, which most of us automatically turn over.  When you create folded documents different rules apply.

Single sheets – most people scan single page documents in a ‘Z’ pattern (unlike on screen where we scan in an ‘F’ format).  So you need a headline at the top and your contact details either across the bottom or in the bottom right corner.  If you want people to read the main section on the left use subheadings and bullet points to direct their attention.  Anything on the right should be support information rather than essentials.

If you are creating a booklet remember that most of us read the right hand page before the left hand one.  We tend to read booklets like magazines and newspapers rather than like an actual book.  This is because there are headlines and sections and you will always find that the most important information in commercial publications is on the right.

Ensure that you have reader-focused headlines.   The first job that any message has to do is to engage the reader – if you don’t do that then the rest is wasted effort (and money).

These are just some of the issues that will improve the reader engagement and the likelihood that they will take action.  Check your current marketing information out to ensure you remove all barriers to people getting your message.

Making sure your message gets through

I’m back on my soapbox about the importance of not only delivering the message that your potential client will respond to, but also presenting it in a way that makes it easy for them to see and process.

After looking at many websites that start with ‘Welcome to our website’ or, worse still, no headline in any prominent position, I wonder what is going on in the heads of some web designers and site owners.  When we’re all so busy there are just a few seconds (not many) before the site visitor gives up, hits the back button and looks at another option on the list.

This also applies to hard copy documents, but there is much more to think about, including how people handle different types of document.

Let’s start with getting the message right

You need to be clear about what your website visitor wants – not what you want to tell them.  If you’re not sure ask a few existing clients what they would be looking for if they were trying to find a new supplier; what is really important to them?

Once you have this information you can use it to deliver the right message.

Remember every page needs a headline, you never know where people will land.  If they have searched for a particular product or service they may arrive on the page that features that, not on the home page.

Focus on ‘you’ (your visitor), not ‘we’ (your company) and be sure to address the ‘what’s in it for me’ throughout the copy.

Now the presentation

Key things to remember:

  • One dominant headline, not several confusing different messages in many boxes, banners and sidebars competing for attention.  It doesn’t mean you can’t have boxes and sidebars, it just means that one headline has to stand out from the rest.
  • Fast moving images can irritate.  If moving images are important ensure they change gently and subtly so they don’t distract your reader when they’re trying to read the content.
  • All capitals are harder to read, stick to sentence case for headlines – as big and bold as necessary.  Never use capitals for main copy.
  • Dark backgrounds make it harder to read the main copy.  Big bold headlines are fine, but light writing on a dark background creates dazzle and makes it much harder for people to actually take on board the message.
  • Justified text encourages people to get lost in paragraphs as there is no shape for the eye to ‘bookmark’ and results in people rereading the same line or skipping a line.  It can also produce ugly gaps between words.
  • Stick to a clean sans serif font (e.g. Verdana, Arial, Tahoma), screen resolution makes this much easier to read.  Serif fonts like Times, Garamond and Palatino tend to look a bit fuzzy making reading slower.
  • Don’t use more than one column of text for your message – people won’t scroll back up to the next column and you never know where the page is going to break with so many different screen sizes today.

Don’t assume that a web designer will know all this – it’s not generally taught as part of their training.  This is a web designer’s site that breaks most of the above ‘rules’!

Black background and caps



By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.