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Principles

1. Understand who and why

2. Understand the text

3. Choose what to say

4. Slash everything else

5. Edit sentences

6. Put into logical order

7. Demolish walls of words

8. Use links in the right way

9. Rest it then test it

7. Demolish walls of words.

Solid blocks of text are intimidating. Break them up.

Use bulleted lists for items or choices

If you have a selection of different items separated by commas then try writing them as a bulleted list.

Use numbered lists for instructions

If you want people to do things in a specific order, such as following instructions, then use a numbered list.

Use visuals when they help

Here are some of the places where something visual may help:

If... Then...
Your content needs brightening up Choose a photo or graphic
You need to show two-dimensional relationships Choose a diagram
There's a standard visual representation, such as showing dates on a calendar Use the obvious representation
You need to show that this content belongs to your overall site Use branding

Try to make sure that any visual element that you use is beautiful or useful.

Use tables to organise repetitive text or data

Think of tables as a collection of 'if... then' sentences. Read the first column as the 'if' part of the sentence, and the other columns as the 'then' parts. We put an example just above.

 


Tips and cautions

Screen readers, used by blind people, can't 'see' the meaning of a table. Check that your table continues to make sense when it is read row-by-row across the table.


Choosing and using photos

A great photo can lift your page; a discordant one can ruin it. PhotoUX explains how to choose and use photos.


Where from

The idea of breaking up solid blocks of text has been around since journalists started using headlines in the 1870s.


Where to find out more

Ginny Redish's book

chapter 11: Using lists and tables

chapter 13: Using illustrations effectively