Want your content to be effective?

Your first hurdle is to get your visitors to stick around long enough to absorb it, engage with it, and act on it.

Your readers’ time is at a premium, and they’re careful about how they spend it. When a piece of content looks overwhelming, is hard to decipher, or is dense, they’ll move right along to something else.

That’s why “beautifying” your page, once you’ve written it, is a good investment of your time.

Think of it as that last look in the mirror before a big night out: you smooth out the wrinkles, check your hair, and confirm that you don’t have toothpaste on your cheek.

These final touches help you head out the door with confidence. Adding these final touches to your content will help you publish with confidence, too.

How to beautify your content and make a good first impression

Don’t worry about beautifying your words as you write them. It’s important to write without self editing. Just get your thoughts down, flesh them out, and fill in the missing pieces.

Once your words are ready, then you can turn your attention to giving them the visual polish they need to attract and hold your readers’ attentions.

There are 5 steps to the process. Practice them on the next piece of content you write. As you continue to use this “content design” technique, it will become second nature.

1. Divide and conquer with the return key

We are long past the idea that users “don’t want to scroll.” Readers would rather see something that’s easy to read and absorb than something that fits perfectly on one screen.

Shorter paragraphs and ample white space make text easier to read on a screen. When you’re done writing, return to those long paragraphs you wrote, and hit the return key in the middle of them to break them up and make them shorter.

Consider sprinkling your content with the occasional one-sentence paragraph too, just to keep things interesting. 😉

2. Format to impress

Once you’ve broken up your writing into digestible chunks, it’s time to add some pop to the occasional word or phrase. When appropriate, consider adding links to other content to get your reader to continue to interact with your information.

Consider bolding phrases or sentences you wish to draw attention to.

Add italics sparingly to highlight quotes, interesting thoughts, or personal observations.

3. Subheadify your information

Here’s what I do when I’m deciding whether I should read something. I look at:

  • The headline
  • The graphic
  • The subheads

If I’m still interested, I dive in and start reading the first paragraph.

People often skim pages on screen before they read them, so your subheads have an important job to do. They provide glimpses of what’s in your content.

When done right, they intrigue and invite your reader to go deeper. And, as a bonus, they break up your content and add white space to the page, which makes it easier to digest.

Every few paragraphs, build in a subhead. It will help engage those skimmers, and will pull readers through your piece.

4. Use alluring lists

Don’t you love it when you’re reading a long piece on screen and you come across a bulleted list? You might think:

  • “Whew! A little break in the action. I could use that.”
  • “I wonder what’s in the next bullet?”
  • “Hey, this is fun!”

Bulleted lists are like pit stops in the middle of a long article. They’re fast to read and easy to grasp.

Whenever you have consecutive facts to communicate, bullet them up and run them as a list. Your readers will thank you.

5. The final touch: invite your readers to take action

“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!”― Maya Angelou

It sounds so simple, but it’s often forgotten. When you’d like your readers to take a specific action after they’ve read your content, ask them.

Please don’t assume they’ll figure it out. Don’t think your amazing writing alone will inspire them.

People are busy. Be explicit. Say:

  • Click here to sign up now.
  • Visit this page to RSVP today.
  • Click to vote on the winner here.

End your content by asking your reader plainly and simply to do exactly what you’d like them to do. It’s the best way to guarantee there will be no confusion about the action you’d like your readers to take.

Start using content design techniques this week

It takes some extra effort to put these finishing touches on your content. But when you see more people reading and responding to the information you work so hard to produce, you’ll see it’s worth the effort.

Ready to start designing your content? Already using content design techniques? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your plans.

About the Author: Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System helps small businesses owners learn to use strategic marketing and great design to grow their businesses. Get her free Design 101 course and pick up tips for making all your marketing materials work better.