Growing up, most of us were taught to never judge a book by its cover. This applied to people, books (literally), and really anything you can think of seeing for the first time. However, a phenomenon the phrase doesn’t applies to very heavily today is what we see on the internet. Think of the last time you were on the internet–before reading this blog of course–and try to remember how you selected the site you visited. Was it because of its design or layout, or was it the long paragraphs that drew you in? Most likely it was the design that caught your attention, not the lengthy writing that you save for school work. Websites are now designed to bring in millions of visitors to positively increase their sites reputation. So although your mom or dad were probably right about never judging something or someone before you know it, this quote does not apply to what we see on the internet for many reasons, including finding a good online style and incorporating helpful tactics such as hypertext and headlines.
The first reason visitors will judge the web page in order to decide if it is worth visiting is based on its layout and design. If there are bright colors and interesting font that is easy to read, a visitor is much more likely to stay and explore that page, as opposed to a bland and dull page that is hard to read. Going off of being easy to read, is to make sure the site is easy to navigate; you never want readers to ask themselves “Where am I on this page?”. If they question the page, you know you are in bad shape. Secondly, writing style needs to appeal to the audience because the despite what I have said so far about the design and layout being the most important attribute to a website, a huge part of why the visitors stay is to read what you have to say. So make it interesting. Another quality readers look for when scanning the web for a good article or image is an identity and a mission. According to Brian Carroll’s chapter on “Online Style”, it is important to let the audience know what your goal is right away and before they have the chance to leave. This form of communication is crucial in order to get your message or information spread across the right group of people. Lastly, just make it simple. We all know that human beings do not like complexity because it requires us to do more work, as sad as that is to say. Although the information on your site is extremely valuable and interesting, your goal is to get visitors to see your work and interpret it however they wish to interpret it because the audience is essentially, your boss.
In “Writing for Digital Media”, Carroll also touched on the other ways to make your website memorable and seen in a positive light. One of these ways involves incorporating hypertext in your writing. Using this tool increases credibility by taking readers to other sites that may help them with whatever they need. It also gives supporting evidence to your claims that you have included in your text. However, with this tool comes consequences. You should always have a “go back” option so the readers won’t forget about your site that you got them to in the first place with all of your amazing design and creativity talents! Once you’ve got this helpful tool down, next you want to focus on headlines. These will be your best friend, because it will show up in search engines with main tag lines, and it will set the tone for your writing. Take the daily newspaper, for example. I read The New York Times daily and each day I skim the headlines to see which sections look interesting enough to read. Although this is regular print I am mentioning and here we are discussing digital media, there is a connection. Studies have shown that people read less online. That means that I am potentially reading more when I read the newspaper than when I read articles online. Therefore, it is important that the online headlines blow the print headlines out of the water.
Do you think you could create a visually stimulating website right now after learning about what stands out to readers? With the tools listed above, use them to form a site that stands out amongst a vast sea of blogs, websites, documents, images, and more. In a society where everything gets put on the internet, you need to come up with something that stands above the rest. Don’t forget about the quote you learned so many years ago about judging a book by its cover, but remember to make your website the hit that no one judges harshly. That’s all for now!