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Ensuring Text Readability And Accessibility

by: Gail E. Notestine, CGAP

In Lesson 5, we taught you how to write effective site content, in other words, content that is relevant to the theme of your business.

In this lesson, we will teach you how you can test your content to ensure that your marketing base can understand the message that you are trying to convey. We will also give you a tool to measure the readability index of your site.

Content readability is usually the one thing that web developers don't take into consideration, when building a web site. Though a site is designed to follow all W3C recommendations, it will still be unsuccessful if your content is difficult to comprehend. You can do a lot to increase your site's accessibility by improving the readability index.

Keep your paragraphs short; one to four brief sentences usually work best.

Use words that the general public can understand. No matter what your service or product, remember that there are a lot of entrepreneurs that didn't finish college, but are worth billions. Make sure that EVERYONE can understand your site so you don't limit your prospects.

Measuring readability of a text:

There are many text readability methods. Most of them measure the number of letters in a word and the number of words in each sentence, to come up with a "readability score". However, even if your sentences are short but you use multi-syllabic words or obtuse technical terms, your readability will be bad.

Some important facts about readability measurement methods:

  • Readability index formulas only work for a specific language.
  • Readability does not equal understandability.
  • A readability index score is not an exact science. Again, if your wording is readable only by college graduates, but your marketplace is less educated, you can have short sentences and still have a terrible readability index.

Now, we will move on and learn how to test our site content:

The readability index calculator

There is a wonderful FREE tool for testing readability of site content.

CLICK HERE FOR FREE TOOL

All you have to do is copy and paste the text you want to analyze, into the text box, and choose the language the text is in. Just push the "Calculate Score" button and immediately you will get a report telling you what grade level a reader needs to have achieved to understand your text and a readability score.

What you can do to improve readability

Make sure you use the methods we have taught you, in previous lessons, to improve your readability.

Some things to keep in mind when writing for the web:

  • Explain abbreviations and acronyms the first time they are used (do not rely on markup alone).
  • Use simple words, rather than a multi-syllabic synonym.
  • Try to keep sentences short.
  • Avoid symbolic language (metaphors).
  • Avoid technical terms, when possible. Make sure you are writing from your user's point of view. Use their terminology instead of your own.
  • Write for the web. Writing for the web differs from writing a scientific report or articles for print.

You have one second, or less, to grab your visitors' attention. Your pages must hook them quickly, then keep them on your site with interesting, well-written content.

Homework:

Practice writing text content, to improve your site, then run it through the readability index calculator at:

http://www.standards-schmandards.com/exhibits/rix/

Keep making changes until you have relevant text that is understandable by your entire market.

 

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