People read differently online to how they read on paper. Online users scan for the information they need. They look across the top of the page and then down the left-hand side. Once they have found information they are interested in, they read across. This pattern looks roughly like an “F”. With this in mind, you need to take a different approach to writing digital content than when writing for print.
Two-thirds of users on the ONS website are viewing the content on a mobile or tablet device. It is important to think about how content looks on these devices.
Research shows that 80% of users on a mobile or tablet do not scroll past the first quarter of a release. Make sure to frontload the main information of your release in the opening sections by using the inverted pyramid.
Headings and sub-headings help users to scan your content. They are also important for people using assistive technologies to navigate a page.
Titles of releases should use the heading level 1 (H1) format and sub-headings under that move logically down the heading levels. Do not skip a level – for example, do not go from H2 to H4. Screen reader users may navigate content through heading levels so a missed level can be confusing.
Make sure headings are short, frontloaded and use the active voice.
Do not use questions in headings. They are not frontloaded, can take longer for the user to scan and are harder to understand.
“International migration definition”
“What is the standard definition of international migration?”
Use a statistical heading, describing the content of the following text, rather than a headline that describes the story. This is shorter and easier for the user to understand when scanning through the table of contents.
Consumer Prices Index
CPI rose by 5.5% in the 12 months to January 2022
See our Structuring content guidance for more information on how to write content.
We should write in a way that is easy to understand for all users. Shorter sentences help make online reading easier. Sentences should ideally be no more than 25 words.
The Flesch-Kincaid score grades your writing on readability. If the score is high, the sentence is more readable. To find this in Microsoft Word, follow these instructions:
- Select the Microsoft Office Button, and then select “Word Options”.
- Select “Proofing”.
- Make sure “Check grammar with spelling” is selected.
- Under “When correcting grammar in Word”, select the “Show readability statistics” check box.
Analytical tools can help you understand how users are viewing and interacting with your content. For more information see our Using the analytics dashboard guidance.
We are constantly improving based on research and best practice. Any significant changes to our guidance are available on the Updates page.
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