We've all heard it, "no one reads on the web." Web users are on a mission to find the information they need. Studies show they skim the left side of the page keying in on headings. Solution? Shape your content for usability. Make it easy to skim, and easy to digest.
Avoid crowding the page.
Introductory copy should be 150 words or less. Deeper pages with more information will necessarily be longer. Print content tends to be a lot longer than is readable on the web, so shorten it and/or divide it into several pages.
Keep your content left-aligned.
This makes the content easier to skim - especially if you use headings. Centering text throws off a reader's natural left to right flow.
Don't overuse bold or italics.
If too much is emphasized, nothing stands out.
Do not underline text.
Visitors often mistake underlined text for links. This leads to confusion and reduces the impact of what you were trying to highlight.
Use Heading 6 and Heading 5 to consistently format a page.
If you have a page with content that is clearly broken into sections, apply a Heading 6 to section titles. Heading 5 may also be appropriate for additional organization. Do not use Headings 1-4 within your content, as they are reserved for structural elements of the template.
Use bulleted lists and links (along with headings) to break up copy on longer pages.
These help users skim the page to find exactly what they’re looking for. Content links allow a user to move from page to page with a simple glance - which accomplishes your goal of drawing them further into the site.
MS Word isn't designed for creating web content. The William & Mary website contains styles to control fonts, sizes and colors. Copying from other programs like MS Word sometimes inserts extraneous code that makes your web page inconsistent. If you draft text in Word, first copy into a plain text editor (like Notepad) then copy into Cascade or use Edit >> Paste as Text in Cascade.
Use quality images.
Photos can be a powerful tool to engage users and help tell your story. Equally so, poor quality images can turn users off and distract from your content. Take the time to select and edit your images for quality and proper size before uploading to Cascade. We offer a few image editing tools. Once an image is placed on a page, use one of the photo Styles to align your images within the content.
Don't incorporate non-Cascade web elements - external widgets, animated images, etc.
Cascade provides consistent design, allowing you to focus on the content. Web objects created by external sources can make the W&M website look unprofessional and detract attention from your content. They also compete with other design elements and photography on the page. If you're unsure how to accomplish your goals using the available Cascade tools, contact your Web Manager for assistance. We're here to help.
Keep your balance. Don't overdo the right-hand column.
With many features available, it's easy to get carried away. However, the right-hand column of your page should never be longer than the content area. Tip: listboxes can be shortened by limiting them to display 3, 2 or even 1 item at a time.
Tables can be pretty, too.
Tables are sometimes necessary to display data in a digestible format. Be sure to apply the tablespecial or tablespecial2 style to your data tables. These are specially designed styles to compliment the website's design. Never add a border using the table dialog box.