We share tips and tools for making your online content more engaging and accessible through readability testing.
When looking at free content marketing tools for charities, you may have come across apps and plug-ins to test and improve ’readability’. These tools can help you refine your online content to help it better meet your goals – but what exactly is readability and why is it so crucial on the web?
In the online world, we’re bombarded with information. The human brain can only take in so much and has found ways to prioritise and pick out only what’s important. Recent studies have concluded that visitors only read about 20% of any given copy on a web page – the rest they skim read.
This is why you need to make your website, blog or social media content grab your audience’s attention quickly and deliver the information they need. Readability means making your content as clear and easy to understand as possible.
By improving readability, charities without specialist content staff can mimic the pros and improve engagement online, create a positive impression and experience for users, and improve your SEO game by helping search engines spot quality content.
Another reason why readability should be of high priority to the charity sector is that it is vital to making content accessible to a wide range of readers, including those with sight or cognitive impairments. According to the Web Accessibility Initiative’s principles, ensuring text is ’readable and understandable’:
Helps software, including assistive technology, to process text correctly
Helps people who have difficulty understanding more complex, phrases and vocabulary
Fortunately, it’s not all up to guesswork- readability can be quantified. There are various tests that can determine the level of readability of a piece of text.
The Flesch Reading Ease Score is one of the popular ones, which scores writing based on the level of schooling a reader needs to understand it, based on a mathematical formula (using sentence length and the average number of syllables per word).
While there is more to readability than this alone, there are a few free readability tools and plug-ins out there which use the scoring method and can help you create more easily digestible content.
Some of these are:
These tools can be useful guides, however strict rules around copy are made to be broken and played with, so take them with a pinch of salt and use your own judgement.
Writing your content according to a formula can take some of the character out of it – you still need your copy to make sense in the context it’s in, carry your charity’s brand voice and be enjoyable to read, not robotic.
There are some simple strategies to improve your content’s readability. In a nutshell:
Use shorter sentences and words with less syllables
It’s worth scanning your text a couple of times over to see if there is anywhere where a word can be replaced with a simpler one or trimmed.
Aim for efficiency. Shorter sentences make text easier to understand, so break them apart where possible.
However, try not to keep all your sentences the exact same length - varying your sentence structure is a tried and tested way of making text less monotonous and more interesting.
You may be a niche organisation giving out quite specialist information, but will your reader understand every acronym and insider term? Assume your audience may not know.
Break up text
Lengthy chunks of text don’t play well on mobile, or for easy reading. Use paragraphs, bullet points, sub-headers, images and graphic elements to avoid creating a ’wall of text’.
Improve text presentation
On your website, the visual presentation of text is just as important as the content itself, so make sure you have sufficient font size, line height and contrast between the text and background – lots more advice here on ensuring readability as part of your web design.