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Readability

Note: This is a high-level overview of UVic's web standards. Training is available on this topic for content developers and Cascade authors.

Your website may be informative, but is it readable? Readability refers to how easy it is for readers to find, scan and digest the information they’re looking for on a web page.

Choosing relevant content

When a user lands on your webpage, they typically decide in the first five to eight seconds whether to stay or leave. It's important that your content is straightforward, succinct and tailored to your audience.

  • Consider the primary audience for the page, and what they are likely looking to do
  • Define a call to action (CTA) for each page, and make sure it's clear for the user to find
    • E.g. Watch a video, fill out a form, email or phone your office
  • Consider the entire user journey: what steps does your user take to complete a task before they arrive on your site, and after they leave?
  • Leave out "low value" content that doesn't serve your users; this information that's all about you:
    • Mission statements
    • Welcome messages
    • Archived news, events, meeting notes, etc.

Writing web content

For web content to be effective, the writing should be both conversational and scannable.

Conversational content

  • Think about the types of questions your audience is searching for, and incorporate the answers to those questions
  • Put the focus on the reader with "you" statements
  • Write in the active voice
  • Use calls to action to tell the reader what they should do next

Scannable content

  • Paragraphs should be 1-3 sentences
  • Use plenty of headings (h1, h2, h3...) and lists to make it easier for your users to scan
  • Use short sentences (25 words or less)
  • Write in simple language, aiming for a Grade 6-8 Flesch-Kincaid reading level (check your content using the Hemingway app or using Microsoft Word)
  • Avoid jargon when writing for a general audience

UVic style guide formatting

Refer to the UVic style guide to ensure your formatting, spelling and grammar is styled consistently.

Web style checklist

Using the style guide, we’ve created a readability checklist for you to reference when reviewing the formatting of your site:

  • Content is broken up into “chunks,” with white space in between short blocks of text
  • Lists are formatted as short, high-impact bullets, not separated by commas in a block of text.
  • Nothing is underlined except for links
  • When emphasis is needed on a word or phrase, the text is bolded
  • No custom web styles (adding custom CSS/HTML to the source code)
  • Headings are used appropriately (see Accessible text)
  • Headings are written in sentence case
    • e.g. "Parents and visitors," not "Parents and Visitors"
  • Avoid using "click here" for links. Describe the link destination instead
  • URLs are not used for link names. Spell it out.

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