I have used the Nielson Norman Group’s (NNG) publications for many years to help guide me in online content creation and web design. As user experience experts since the ‘90s, the folks that pretty much invented the well-known methods we use today for measuring effective websites, their opinion weighs a lot.
NNG has long touted the use of bullets points as one of the most effective ways for presenting content on a website, and I agree. Bullets make it easier to scan content by breaking up complicated and dense paragraphs and grouping ideas or items into digestible bits. Remember, readers’ eyes track in the shape of an “F” on websites, which means that the content at the top of the page and to the left is the first that people see. Bullets keep everything where it should be. But although bullets are great for readers, they can often be tough for writers like me to put together — especially if what I’m writing about isn’t easily defined in stacked steps and short sentences.
In their article “7 Tips for Presenting Bulleted Lists in Digital Content,” NNG has once again provided several useful tips for breaking up content into lists that will provide people the information they need in a way that they want.
Tips for Writing Bullets
- Definitely use a dot, diamond, circle, square, or whatever kind of symbol you like to determine the start of a bullet (like we have done here).
- If you write a sentence that has several commas, if can probably be made into bullet points. For example, a sentence like, “Comprehensive car insurance includes liability coverage, and compensation for damage from natural disasters, vandalism, fire, and theft can be presented as such:
Comprehensive car insurance includes liability coverage and compensation for damage from the following:
- Natural disasters
- Do your best to keep the word count about the same for each line in your list. as not only is it more aesthetically pleasing, you might lose your reader by forcing them to linger longer in one place when they are not expecting it by using sporadic lengths of points.
- Numbered list are good for when you are trying to direct your reader through a series of steps (such as a how-to on assembling an item), but in any other case they will confuse readers into thinking that all of the points are mandatory “to-dos.” Bullets denoted by letters also tend to look like a multiple-choice exam, something those of us no longer in school will go to great lengths to avoid.
- Pay attention to grammar. Yes, bulleted lists do give you a chance to not worry as much about correct sentence structure, but descriptive adjectives and adverbs can also keep the reader enjoyably moving through the text and help them get the “point” better.
- Be consistent. If you end one bullet with a period (really, this is only advised when the bullets are full sentences), then make sure to end them all with a period. The same goes for no punctuation at the end of a bullet point.
- Avoid word repetition. It can be tough, but a list that all starts the same way just denotes a bit of laziness in writing.
- Be sure to provide a clear and concise introduction to your list to make sure readers know what they are looking at
Different Kinds of Content Counts, Too!
Unfortunately, it is possible to over-use bullets. Making your site’s visitors want to read your stuff means providing them with all different kinds of content. FAQs pages (which are really just a more extensive kind of list) are among the most clicked-upon on websites, and if they are put together properly they can also cut down on work for your sales and communications people. Blogs provide a friendly, approachable and informative way to reach out to your customers, and are also awesome for SEO purposes. And whitepapers put everything all in one place in a nice, neat package, proving that your business has your customers’ best interests in mind.
Above all else, though, don’t be a copycat! Google’s algorithm is trained to watch for duplicate content across websites, and you will be punished in your SEO results if you plagiarize.
Emphasize Web Design Services for Calgary Businesses
There are lots more guidelines on creating great content on our blog. And if you are looking for web design and content creation services for your Calgary business, Emphasize Design has the skills and talent you need.