Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read

by Marian Schembari on November 2, 2011


Raise your hand if you’ve ever come across a blog with such incredible content but the blogger has managed to make it as unreadable as humanely possible.

It baffles me that so many people think blog aesthetics don’t matter – that the content should just “shine through.” But let me tell you a thing or two about blog readers: They – we – don’t read blogs like books. The readability of your site contributes to it’s success and if your content requires bifocals, a wide screen desktop and the brighten button, you’re going to lose a huge chunk of readers before they’ve even begun.

Before you start questioning the very existence of your blog, here are a few things to make each post more readable:

Bold up your sentences

Not of all of them, idiot. Just one or two to emphasize importance and allow for comfortable skimming.

Break up long paragraphs (and shorten the post as a whole)

Read this post and learn all about editing. Then cut your post by half. (That’s a hand tip I learned from my dad who learned it from A River Runs Through It.) But even if the post short, the paragraphs should be short too. Again, skimming.

Resize and reformat photos

I would give you an example here, but I can’t bring myself to post a bad example as it will ugly-up this post. But if you’ve been reading blogs for any amount of time, you’ve seen this: Photos so big the site won’t load. Photos justified with text that starts at the top, stops mid-sentence, then continues underneath. Basically, ugly and poorly centered photos are a distraction from that “shining” content. Fix it up.

Use bullets/numbers where applicable

This is less applicable if you have a personal blog, but if you do any sort of teaching or how-to style posts you need to think about breaking your content into lessons. Meaning numbered steps and structured, headlined paragraphs.

Pare down your sidebar

Again, distraction = bad. Too much action on the side (re: tons of photos or links) means not enough attention can be paid to the actual content.

Re-think your text color

I can’t believe I need to keep saying this, but WHITE TEXT ON A BLACK BACKGROUND IS NOT PRETTY. It’s not readable. It’s not easy on the eyes. It’s just not anything positive. Stop doing it.

Any other annoyances you’ve seen on blogs that are impossible to read?

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  • http://twitter.com/marianschembari/status/131719812962467841 Marian Schembari

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/DanozxHd

  • http://twitter.com/abby_butts/status/131782978673184768 Abby Butts

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/37yb6lNG via @MarianSchembari

  • http://www.jargonwriter.com Melissa Breau

    I’m totally guilty of the long posts / not enough breaks thing. I try to keep paragraphs short, but I never use enough headers / bold sentences to really break up those paragraphs into sections. 

    I’m working on it though :-P

    • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

      I tend to write super messy first, then go back the next day and break things up. Makes shit lots easier.

  • http://twitter.com/carrieatthill/status/131797744540069888 Carrie Keenan

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read – http://t.co/3dbH9mns via @MarianSchembari

  • http://twitter.com/marianschembari/status/131809980243394561 Marian Schembari

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/DanozxHd

  • http://twitter.com/geekyshopaholic/status/131817365414490113 Paula

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/DanozxHd

  • http://twitter.com/elizabethscraig/status/131942552239751169 Elizabeth S Craig

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read: http://t.co/NhwBRzmF @MarianSchembari #writing

  • http://twitter.com/bethyarnall/status/131942617138212864 Beth Yarnall

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read: http://t.co/NhwBRzmF @MarianSchembari #writing

  • http://twitter.com/kassieterk/status/131952101038358528 Kassie

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read: http://t.co/NhwBRzmF @MarianSchembari #writing

  • http://twitter.com/llillibridge/status/132039164098121728 Loralee Lillibridge

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read: http://t.co/NhwBRzmF @MarianSchembari #writing

  • http://twitter.com/urbanmusewriter/status/132079958502817792 Susan Johnston

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/fWycse8I via @MarianSchembari

  • http://twitter.com/stacysjensen/status/132080397784858624 Stacy S. Jensen

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read — Marian Schembari http://t.co/Ot1WZc7c

  • http://twitter.com/thewriteweb/status/132082361813831680 E.J.Smith

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/fWycse8I via @MarianSchembari

  • Anonymous

    I’m also guilty of long posts. I so rarely sit down to write then when I do everything comes out like vomitext. Also my premium theme has all these cool shortcodes and I’m that looser who thinks they’re fun to play with so I’m constantly adding them. Dropcaps – woo hoo! Fancy lists – yes please! Pullquotes – why yes!

    I actually like well-done images. In the mommy blogger realm very few DO use images which is a shame. And almost nobody uses any other sort of media (video? what is that anyway?). I keep thinking to play around with a video post myself but would mean cleaning my office and putting on makeup so unlikely to happen soon….

    • http://marianlibrarian.com Marian Schembari

      I definitely used to be that way, but the more I blog the better I get at keeping things concise. Still, sometimes a topic calls for a longer post, so don’t stress too much about it! Just make sure things are broken up well so readers don’t feel like they’re being bombarded.

      And I love fancy WordPress toys ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/greenmellissa/status/132117655283961856 Nicole Andrews

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read — Marian Schembari http://t.co/Ot1WZc7c

  • http://twitter.com/DTWriters Denise Turney

    Appreciate your article.  Bullets and shorter paragraphs are good tips.  I also like stats as I can be a bit analytical. Some people might like graphs and videos (tools that can keep folks at your blog longer).  To keep folks coming back, add new posts regularly.

    Denise
    http://www.writemoneyinc.com

  • http://twitter.com/shesselfemplyed/status/132150348520488960 P.S. Jones

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    RT @MarianSchembari: Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/ZyrcVw3s

  • http://twitter.com/alexisgrant/status/132175350867296258 Alexis Grant

    Short paragraphs! Is your blog easy to read? From @MarianSchembari: http://t.co/snKM7DgT #blogging

  • http://twitter.com/averillb/status/132179004592635904 Averill Buchanan

    This is so appropriate after what I've been learning today on #TheSfEP web editorial skills training course http://t.co/kTvKpmLt

  • http://twitter.com/barefootadvocat/status/132252511124987904 Katharine Norwood

    Is Your Blog Skimable? 6 Easy Fixes to Help Readers Actually Read http://t.co/jmiTiFjF

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  • http://twitter.com/kikilitalien/status/134705151519891456 KiKi L’Italien

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  • http://twitter.com/matthewsm1th/status/135005157397237760 Matthew Smith

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  • http://twitter.com/salonvoices/status/139002763106455552 salonvoices

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  • http://twitter.com/thetiffer03/status/139003361075806209 Tiffany Hicks

    Blogs need to be easy for readers to digest. Find out how to ensure that your salon's blog is skimable! http://t.co/znn4ks8E #hairsalon

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