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It seems fairly well agreed that people glancing at a site won't read proper paragraphs, only bullet point lists.

I'm really struggling how to say all the things I want in a few bullet points... it seems to me more than 5 or 6 points and it again looks 'heavy'

To me, so many things about my company seem imperative to get across but how on earth do you decide what to leave out?

My site will be somewhere I direct users to, not one they find via Google - it's a specialist product.

ps: Is this the best SE site? I figured web-design would have its own but I can't see one

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Not a real question as it stands IMHO. Needs to be more specific. –  e100 Jun 9 '11 at 14:09
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There is webmasters: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions And also writers: writers.stackexchange.com/questions –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 9 '11 at 14:53
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And english.stackexchange.com too –  Farray Jun 9 '11 at 19:34
    
A webmaster isn't the same thing. Also, of course it's a real question. –  Mr. Boy Jun 12 '11 at 18:21
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Great question that probably requires a lifetime to master. My father was a professor and I remember telling him about the 10-page or 20-page papers I had to write. He would respond by saying, "at least you don't have to write a 2-page paper," and reference his latest assignment for his grad school students. This is my favorite quote on the subject: Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. Roughly translated: If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. –  goodship11 Apr 30 at 20:39

7 Answers 7

A lot of stuff that's "fairly well agreed" is wrong, or at least misleading. This is one of them. Text can be made attractive and inviting, or not, information can be easy to find, or not, according to how well the page is designed (or not!).

People will read if they are interested and you don't actively drive them away with dense, hard to follow text. A page full of bullet points can repel the reader just as thoroughly as a solid screen of undifferentiated copy.

There are three things you need to achieve with a web page, a flyer or an ad:

  1. You must attract the viewer's attention (some marketing people say "interrupt" -- same thing). Have you ever tried to talk to someone without first getting their attention? Wasn't successful, was it?

  2. What they see as an image or read as a headline must interest or engage them.

  3. Then you can educate, deliver your message, or whatever you need to get across in your text.

You have less than a second to achieve 1, and only a second or so thereafter to achieve 2, but once those are accomplished you can expect the viewer will read at least the first sentence or two of your text. Those sentences, well written, will draw the reader into the rest.

A very large part of a designer's job (applies equally to book design, web page design, any sort of message) is to make the information attractive enough, and findable enough, that the reader feels comfortable and invited. How much text and how it's written depends very much on the audience, and is the job of the copywriter.

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+1 for "A lot of stuff that's "fairly well agreed" is wrong, or at least misleading." –  Benteh Jan 6 at 11:58

Well from a graphic design perspective:

  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Not that you should litter your site with images, but if a logo, photo or graphic can more concisely convey what you want — and hopefully increase aethetic appeal — then use one!

And in general:

  • Practice. You get good at something, including concise writing, by doing it over and over.
  • Edit. Odds are you'll rarely come up with the perfect wording on your first try. Edit, edit, edit, take a break, edit, edit, edit. Then give it a couple days so you can look at it with new eyes, and edit some more. Get other people involved if you can.
  • Focus on what's important to customers / visitors. Quite often this is substantially different from all the things you want to say. This may require research.
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A relevant picture is worth a thousand words. See: Photos as Web Content, a column by Nielsen. –  koiyu Jun 20 '11 at 20:11
    
and how did you read my comment and determine I was attacking you instead of fortifying your +1 answer? :-) –  koiyu Jun 20 '11 at 20:54
    
@koiyu My bad! Apologies. –  Matthew Read Jun 20 '11 at 20:58

Can you break up your text into two sets of three bullets? Use a header or sub-header. like:

The Gardens

  • Roses
  • Zinnias
  • Peonies

The Grounds

  • Trees
  • Grass
  • Shrubbery
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Typically you do it by hiring a copywriter. That's what they do for a living. That said, I pretty much agree with Alan.

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Good point! I'm blessed to have some really talented copywriters I can work with. It does make a difference. –  Alan Gilbertson Jun 22 '11 at 0:47

What about a short animation showing all points in less boring way...id say video but loading one is such a pain..& loud music that all seem to have.

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You can:

  • make your list interactive, showing one item after another only after a click, or with a "carousell" type of solution
  • use only keywords which lead to a "read more" paragraph or expand a such
  • try emphazise words or lines which, of the six lines, are the most important ones
  • cut down stuff to say and link to some more in-depth text/list that has it all

But mostly, you need to really ask yourself, if there really is no way to limit your list.

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I am a little late here, and to be absolutely clear; I am NOT a fan of tag clouds as such. But you seem to be fixed on the bullet-list thing, and I would argue for other solutions to highlight content, concepts and ideas. Using the massive amounts of visual language you have at your disposal should not mean that a list of bullets a lá PowerPoint is the way to go (BTW. I hate PP).

You say this is a specialist site, so chances are that the people going there have a special interest in the first place. This means their attention span is probably a little longer than if you tried to sell toothbrushes.

This is just a very simple example, from the Qi site:

Animation is of course optional, and sentences can of course be longer...

(I think is was the old greeks who said; write drunk, edit sober. Or write sober and edit drunk. It is not as far fetched as it might sound :)

enter image description here

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