While most people are turning to the internet to get their information, research shows that more web users are actually scanning content instead of methodically reading it.  A 2008 analysis concluded that a page visitor only reads 20 percent of the words on a page.  Another study showed that visitors only view pages for 10 seconds or less and furthermore, fewer than one in ten views extend beyond two minutes.  This may frustrate web designers, but there are certainly ways you can reach these online scanners.  In the August publication of Public Relations Tactics, PRSA’s Ann Wylie discusses tips to help your website pass the skim test.  You may be wondering what a skim tests is, and it simply tests whether people can get the key ideas from your website with out reading any paragraphs.

In order to pass the skim test and successfully communicate your message to clients, Wylie recommends that three guidelines be followed:

  1. Identify key takeaways.  What do you want readers to remember?  You may have a few messages you want to communicate.  Be selective though, more than five ideas could be a bit much.
  2. Embed those takeaways in your display copy.  For example, place your main idea in the headline and deck, place major points in the subheads, and bullet other key items.
  3. Test your copy.  Show your page to someone who hasn’t been working on your project.  See if they can identify the key takeaways with out methodically reading it.  If they can, then your website passes the skim test.  If not keep working – see what works and what doesn’t.