Website copy quality: style, readibility and illustrations

Website copy quality is grounded in several factors among which are copy completeness and ability to meet a reader’s expectations – we have already offered in the previous post.  The other three that we’d like to talk about are style consistency, copy readibility and illustraions quality.

Website copy’s style consistency

A good and informative text about finances can be surely written in casual frivolous style. But will this text be appropriate for the site and the readers you target?

We have to check the style of the copy and think twice before we go. We all like a bit of humor and idioms spilt here or there, but what we need to do is to hold the horses (cool the jets, or look before we leap): readers of the copy we produce are not always prepared to giggle over the stuff they expect to be just informative or analytical or whatever else but overfilled with “rich style”. A couple of metaphors or idioms can’t spoil the borsch, but the devil of stylistic exessiveness on your left shoulder is always ready to overdo things (right now he’s there, grinning :-) . Should we leisurely nourish the text with moribund words and further gewgaw – we get a bad text that brings ridicule to the site.

Readability of the text

Readability is the ease in which text can be read and understood (Wikipedia says).

Various factors to measure readability have been used, such as “speed of perception,” “perceptibility at a distance,” “perceptibility in peripheral vision,” “visibility,” “the reflex blink technique,” “rate of work” (e.g., speed of reading) –

there’s a lot of serious staff to read, let’s skip it. The thing with a copy readability is always that your project managers believe that speed is paramount and this is the only parameter worth paying for. Such an attitude usually tells on the quality of your copy: first on how well the text represents the facts, and then on its literary merits.

There are a number of certain flaws a copy shows when such speedy manager pushes the writer. Readers perceive these flaws subconsciously, so it is rather difficult to formalize  mistakes that spoil the impression. These usually fall into the following categories:

  • Coherency of the text, that is, how consistent and logical the author is in expressing ideas and reasoning. This is the most typical mistake we can make when we haven’t thought the narrative over in advance.
  • Terminology is something that one can easily fail. When we go through a copy written by our competitor, we always take note of how many specific terms are used, whether or not the target audience is familiar with them, and whether or not the author is trying to play it safe by defining each term, if so, how often he does this and how appropriate it looks. Also we check thoroughly if the author uses the terms correctly.
  • Insufficient structuring of the text is another popular flaw: you won’t find a single complex sentence in a well-written web-copy or very long paragraphs, either.
  • Titles and Subtitles. This issue is closely connected with the previous one. We think that Subtitles are a must for any text longer than 300 words. They play a dual role in the text: firstly, they make the reader believe the text is well structured, and secondly, they help you to actually structure the text. Pay attention to how useful the subtitles are and how suitable they are. Besides, subtitles (h2-h4) play and important role in SEO – we always think about keyword placement within them. But again, balance is needed, or the copy looks overstuffed.

Illustrations

It’s difficult to decide which is worse: no illustrations or bad illustrations. One can ruin the impression of a copy, however well written, by picking a terrible illustration.

If you are preparing a post or an article, make sure you can use images yourself, find them in the Internet or buy pictures that work better for the article. Balance the text and the images: they must complement each other, rather than overshadow.

We shouldn’t  infringe copyright to use images in an article. When googling the images, we use the filter to view only images clear for commercial use. There is a similar filter in Flickr (one of the largest international photo hostings).

Try a recent trend which is getting popular once again. It is called information graphics (or infographics) – the art of supporting the text with concise schematic illustrations. If your rival author has taken time to prepare a neat summary but published it as a boring text that no one can trudge through, make advantage of it and present these very data in a more compelling way.

In some cases, when indexing is not vitally important,  infographic illustrations can be used instead of text – after all, the second name for information graphics is ‘content design’. The imagery form allows you to choose any style: from official to mockery. One of the examples of the latter style is the drawing which illustrates the launch speed a mega shark has to put on when it breaks the surface of the water to take down an airplane 2,000 meters above sea level.

Finally, one thing we always keep in mind. Prepare every copy thoroughly, and when you’ve finished, sit down, have a cup of something, or just a short break,  and then read it  once again. Do you like it now? There’s always room for improvement…  But!  The perfect is the enemy of the good: consider the time-limits and the money you get for this very copy… and leave it at peace.

By Olli and Vi