How to create real scannable copy

by 6 Feb, 2018Captivating tips

Paragraph, bullet points is just the beginning. Real scannable copy allows for people to actually SCAN.

Shocking, right?

Yes, you could have figured it out by yourself because you’re a smart entrepreneur.

And because you’re smart I know you’ll keep reading and get 79% more people informed about your offer. And maybe saying the phrase we all want to hear:

– Can’t wait to start!

So let’s jump into it:

Hi! New here?

Hi! New here?

I'm Laís

You love what you do and want to attract clients that love it as much as you do. My job is to help you to captivate your ideal clients through your brand and website so that they feel connected to you and trust you.

Only 16% of people read word-by-word

You read it right. A study from Nielsen group showed 79% of people scan websites and only 16% really read word-by-word.

That means you need to be extra intentional about what you want them to get from it.

Nielsen says you need concise, scannable objective copy and gives a few tips:

  • Highlight keywords
  • Meaningful subtitles
  • Bullet points
  • Short one-idea paragraphs
  • Put important first
  • Shorten copy

But you can do better than that. And sometimes you need more copy (in sales pages, for example).

Scannable copy is not just about how you write, but also the layout of your pages

You can get more people interested by creating two layers of copy.

  1. One for readers.
  2. Other for scanners.

The first one is your whole copy. The second layer is inside of it. It’s the keypoints, the things people must read, the things you would say if you only had 30 seconds.

You confuse them, you loose (heard that one?). And often you’re very clear but the bits people read are not enough for them to get it.

The key is to make sure those keypoints make sense on their own

And this might require some tweaking.

Maybe you’ll break a few phrases, add a few words, make it more descriptive, repeat a few things about your offer so that phrases make sense. That’s ok.

When you get this right you’re one step ahead, but bold text and bullets don’t create a second layer of copy on it’s own.

How good design can help you get more clients

The way to create this second layer of copy is with design.

Good design is what will make those 79% of scanners feel they understand what you’re saying so that they can decide if they want what you offer or not (even if they read just the headlines and bullets).

Here’s how to do it:

1. Pick at least 2 fonts that look good together

I’m using 4 here + bold and italics on body copy. Why so many?

Because one is for copy, another for titles and statements. The uppercase one is for subheadings.

AND I have another for voice. This is for when I want to confess something, do the pep talk or be playful.

This is a secret, ok? Like, anyone who reads this “secret”.

Got the idea?

2. Create visual hierarchy with your headlines and subtitles

Doesn’t matter how many fonts you have, they need to POP out of the page and distinguish from body copy at a glance.

H1 or title needs to be at least 32px. You can go from 32px to 64px or more depending on the font. Just remember: if you chose to go big, make it smaller on smartphones.

H2, H3, H4 and so on will be smaller following a scale.

Body copy must be at least 16px. I prefer 17px to 20px depending on the font (yes, they look different and some need to be bigger).

You can use color and weights as well. Here, H3 is in my brand color.

And don’t be afraid of white space. It’s good for reading. Thing of this like space to breathe. You want people to feel good in your page, so give them space to breathe.

3. Scan your page to check if it makes sense

This one is obvious but don’t skip it. You can ask someone else to do this in front of you too.

Want an extra tip? Submit your page to Peek by User Testing. The first time is free and you’ll get fresh eyes over your page.

Bonus: add graphic emphasis

  • Arrows
  • Boxes
  • Balloons
  • Background image related to the subject
  • Picture of you looking to copy
  • Picture of you pointing at copy

All of those are examples of graphic emphasis.

I have a confession to make

(Can you guess what font I’m using here?)

I’m a scanner. There, I said it.

I’m a visual person, like you would expect from any designer.

That doesn’t mean I don’t read. I do, but first I scan to see what’s in there for me and if I want to keep reading. Most people will do this.

It’s not a bad thing that people scan. It just means you need to think like a scanner.

If a page is too hard they might save it for latter. And later can mean never.

White space is more important than ever.

You don’t have to believe in me. Just try to read bellow:

I have a confession to make (can you guess what font I’m using here?)

I’m a scanner. There, I said it.

I’m a visual person, like you would expect from any designer. That doesn’t mean I don’t read. I do, but first I scan to see what’s in there for me and if I want to keep reading. Most people will do this. It’s not a bad thing that people scan. It just means you need to think like a scanner. If a page is too hard they might save it for latter. And later can mean never. White space is more important than ever”.

See? Same copy above!

This is just one simple mistake you’ll see everywhere. Notice like the recommended 16px font isn’t that good for screen reading (I use 18px on my website, in case you want to know).

Fact: Reading on screen and on paper is different. Following a few rules makes everyone’s lives easier.

Next time I’ll bring visual examples of layout errors so that you don’t make those.

You might also like this post on How to grab attention in 4 seconds on your homepage.

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