Introductory text is often one of the first things that users skip when looking at content on a website. Even if that’s the case, you shouldn’t ignore it altogether when writing your content. It can have some important usability benefits, and it might get read more than you think.
As a web content writer, the best you can do is to make sure that your intro text you serves a purpose and communicates something to your visitors. While editing your content as much as possible might seem like good advice normally, intro text does have a valid role, so you shouldn’t scrap it entirely.
Below you’ll find some reasons why you need to have intro text in your content, followed by some tips for how to write it so that it makes your content more usable.
3 reasons you should use intro text
The topic of intro text is something that I work with clients on all the time. Here are 3 reasons that I give them about why they need some introduction to their content, especially when it comes to lists:
- Tell visitors what your content is about – Yes, most visitors to your website will scan through your content quickly, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to let people know what the content is about. If those scanners have any confusion about the content on the page, they’re likely to scroll back up and look for that intro text to help them.
- Bulleted lists look silly without it – Have you ever seen a section or page of web content that’s just a list of links or items? Something will feel a little off, and that’s because there’s no intro text telling you the visitor what the list is a list of, why it’s there, and how you can benefit from it. That’s what good intro text will do; it can be as simple as “The following ____ are/will ____:”.
- It’s unnatural to how we communicate – Try writing some content where you go right into the topic without any introduction to it. Or along the same lines, try explaining something to someone without giving them the context. Both are hard to do because not introducing something properly goes against the very nature of how we read, write, think, and speak.
6 tips for writing usable intro text
Now that you have heard some reasons for why you should write intro text, here are some pointers on how to write intro text that is both usable and useful to your visitors:
- Keep it short and concise – Good intro text should be no more than 1-2 sentences long and should concisely state what the page is about. If it makes sense to include keywords here, do so, but only if they make the sentence more helpful to the reader.
- Limit the jargon and fluff – Intro text isn’t the place to include marketing or technical jargon, but then again, no website is. (That’s another topic though.) And skip on the fluff as well – i.e., content that has no function and is only there for its own sake.
- Focus on the user – Strong intro text focuses on answering 2 questions that the reader has about your content: what will they find on the page, and why should they care about it. If you answer those in as straightforward a manner as possible, you’ll have done a good job.
- Precede it by a header – I’m not just talking about the intro text on a page of content here; the same principles apply to the intro text within a section of content. When writing a section header, the text of the header should be a phrase that summarizes what the intro text beneath it says.
- No more than 1 link max – Because of where intro text is on a page, a link in it is really going to get noticed a lot. If you follow some of these ways to make links more effective as you’re writing the intro text, you’ll increase the likelihood that people will follow the link contained within it.
- Experiment with formatting – Want to get people to pay attention to your intro text 100% of the time? Try experimenting with the formatting to bring more attention to it. Put certain keywords or phrases in bold print, put the whole intro in bold print, or try some alternate formatting within your CSS.
To those who write web content often, what are your thoughts on including intro text in your content? Is it worth the space on the page, or should it be gotten rid of altogether? Share your thoughts with everyone by leaving a comment below!
About Hirsch Fishman
Hirsch has been working professionally with websites since 2001, working exclusively in, and focusing on, the Jewish community. Hirsch offers a wide range of website knowledge to his synagogue web design clients from his years of experience working in the Jewish community. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.