Why accessibility needs to focus on scanners and skimmers

by Dean Evans

no way

Don't make it difficult for people (and Google) to access your content.

Accessibility here refers to two elements. Firstly, how easy it is for visitors to read a web page. Secondly, how well a particular web page has been labelled for the search engines to find and classify.

Web readers tend to scan and skim website text, hunting for things they find interesting. You probably do it too. You might not even notice. Good content addresses this ‘information foraging’ approach and advocates short, easily digestible sentences and paragraphs.

Smart web writing also aims to break up large chunks of text with devices such as:

  • Bullet points (like these)
  • Pull quotes/callouts
  • Stop-and-stare images
  • Block-breaking subheadings

Accessibility matters

These devices give readers several opportunities to dip into your content at various points on the page. Unlike an article in a newspaper or a magazine, with an online article they don’t have to start at the beginning or read in a linear way.

Being accessible is also about finding the right tone of voice for your audience; something that connects with your visitors and puts you on the same level. The general rule of thumb is ‘write like you speak’ – i.e. be natural, chatty and friendly.

As for getting your pages found… Search engines will analyse a web page and categorise it according to what keywords they find.

So if you’re writing an article about, say, “making your own wine” (and want to appear in the search results when someone types that phrase into Google), then that specific keyword phrase, and any related keywords/phrases, need to appear prominently in your article.

Next: Good content writing tips: “Be useful”

Creative Commons License photo credit: *MarS

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