That Darned Content pg 5: Production Graphics with Wendy Peck at | WebReference

That Darned Content pg 5: Production Graphics with Wendy Peck at


That Darned Content: Creating Logical Areas for Text


Such a boring and hard to read presentation for information. The content could be excellent, but most visitors would miss it.

Dramatic improvement just by breaking exactly the same content into columns. Be careful with columns, however. You do not want your visitor to be scrolling down and then up to read through your information.

It doesn't take a lot to bring a page to life. Although you must have the images to replicate this change, note that I have also used color and lines to break the text into smaller pieces. Which of the above pages would you rather read?

Breaking text into pieces helps to make content easier to read for your visitors. Bullets condense vast amounts of information into tidy packages. But what if even those techniques are not enough to make your content easy to read? Try separating your text into areas, rather than letting it run together in a long, unbroken mass.

Break Content into Columns
The first, and most obvious method is to break content into columns. I am often amazed at how many pages are produced with one column for text-heavy content. We are quickly moving into 1024 pixel-wide display as a standard, and unless a page is broken by both left and right utility areas, like sub-menus and teaser menus (see Menus with Beauty and Brains) text line length is guaranteed to be too long. As the resolution standard rises, the problem of long line length on the Web will continue to grow.

Columns do not have to be created in equal widths. This page is broken into one small column that never exceeds 240 pixels wide, and a larger column that contains the content. Although this format is perfect for presenting screen shots or illustrations beside the topic describing a technique, it is also generally good for presenting any information. Note: There may also be an ad column at the right of this page.

Look for areas in your text to create "sidebar" pieces that are placed in another column. Line length is not as important for a short piece of text, so don't worry too much about short line lengths in sidebar-type passages.

Use Images and Graphics to Break Up Text Areas
Graphic elements or photos are probably the best way to add interest and direction to your pages. Web readers want information quickly, and scanning is the rule rather than the exception. Placing related images or graphics into text areas forces the scanning reader to stop and take note, and can be very powerful for enhancing the message.

Make sure you are using appropriate graphics, however. As a reader, I would far rather plow through solid text, than have my eye stopped for an unrelated graphic. Any graphic is not better than no graphic. If you do not have appropriate art to use on your page, turn to graphic elements like lines, background color or bullet-like images to help direct your reader.

I have worked on projects with text that looked like it was a solid piece of work, and could not be broken down. However, once I focus on the problem, and really mine through content for division points, they are always there. Be careful that you are not changing meaning, but text that is carefully arranged into bite-sized pieces is so much easier to absorb that the effort is well worth it.

We will come back to this subject when we focus on breaking page content into areas with graphic elements. Starting today, keep your eyes open for opportunities to break your text into columns, headlines, sidebars or even teaser menu items.




Back to start

That Darned Content: Tutorial Index

Hey, Wait! That's What It's all About
Line Length is Critical to Legibility
Bigger is Not Better for Text
Break Up Your Text
Creating Logical Areas for Text

Front page2345

Created by Wendy Peck,
Created: September 6, 2001
Revised: September 6, 2001