Chunking – breaking up information for better comprehension and readability.
Unfortunately for me, only about 20% of the text in this article will be read; visitors will skim the rest. Let me tell you why chunking makes a difference, and how to use it effectively.
How Chunking Improves Comprehension
As far as content is concerned, it’s easy to just write out your ideas and call it a day. However, it is vital to keep your reader in mind. Visitors have short attention spans. They want to quickly find answers to their search queries.
Visually breaking up your content makes it easier for your audience to digest the information. A huge wall of text is more overwhelming than bullet points under headings and descriptions. For example, see the following image.
One great example would be this Be Internet Awesome web page. There is a lot of information here, but it’s all sectioned and only pops up when you need to see it. Sections encapsulate bodies of text. Another example would be a form or an application. Forms make great use of chunking by separating input elements, and even spilling into multiple pages.
I also try to use similar techniques in my blog posts and the home page. Even though a blog is, by design, supposed to include a lot of text, I chunk and write all of my posts in a logical, hierarchical format.
How To Chunk Your Content
It takes a considerable amount of testing to see which chunking techniques work for your page, and which ones don’t. Regardless, I’ve come up with a list of several approaches to keep in mind.
- Emphasize key words or phrases. In this example, I’ve bolded and italicized the main point of this list item, and left the rest of the descriptive text alone. This affords visitors to skim over the supporting content, while still being able to take away the main idea.
- Play with whitespace. This might mean breaking apart longer paragraphs, or adding more padding between elements. More whitespace means more breathing room and easier readability.
- Use lists, tables, and images. These functions are already designed to chunk your content – so use them to your advantage!
- Write short and sweet. Make sure that every single word and sentence is meaningful. I actually took an entire English course on this last semester. Long, convoluted sentences are unattractive and difficult to digest.
You could also try chunking your information with other visual cues, such as indentation, a different background color, or borders. I strongly believe that the best design elements are the ones that feel so natural that they are unnoticeable.
There are plenty of studies on how users read different types of text. For example, web content is generally read in an F-shaped pattern. Knowing this, we should probably make sure that the first couple of lines are impactful. Chunking your information is one of the best ways to get to your readers and avoid the F-shaped reading pattern.
What Should Be Chunked?
The answer is obvious: you should be chunking your information into categories that support the overall goal of your content. For example, I divided this post into three sections: the why, the how, and the what. Ultimately, these chunks support the purpose of this post: Chunking Your Content.
Experiment with your audience. It may take several revisions before you can completely optimize your content to fit their behavioral flow.