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Tips for Designing Well Optimized Content-Heavy Pages for the Web

Presentation of online content is essential for website’s usability – if the user can’t immediately find the information he seeks, he is likely to navigate away. Because of this fact, many web designers and UX professionals insist that each page should contain a limited amount of content, but in numerous cases this is simply not possible. Some websites are intended to display a lot of content and designers have no choice but to deal with the added challenge.

Thankfully, there are some techniques that can be helpful in this regard. While it’s true that each site is unique and that successful designs can’t be blindly copied, it’s possible to lean on the collective experience of the UX industry to achieve better results. The following tips can provide some guidance how to handle a content-heavy page without overwhelming the visitor:

Study what works – and what doesn’t

User experience design may not be an exact science, although some patterns in user reactions are steadier than you might think. That’s why every good UX designer spends a lot of time exploring what the competition is doing. You never know where you can find a little bit of inspiration, as sometimes a detail seen on another website can set off an original idea. It’s equally important to study negative examples, so you know what type of errors to be wary of and which combinations to avoid. Of course, context is important so it’s necessary to weigh in where the example came from and how would it work in the particular niche you are targeting.

Use content boxes and borders

The most obvious way to make the content more manageable is to divide it into smaller chunks. If those content units are visually separated from the rest of the page with bordering lines, content boxes or a similar design technique, they will be much easier to process and comprehend. This pertains to different types of content – key paragraphs of text deserve to be placed in a separate box, while this is more or less standardly done with all images. Pay attention to use compatible styles for visual separators, or otherwise the variety can be confusing and negate the positive effects. Each content box should have its headline and/or description, making it easier to pick up its true purpose with a single glance.

Create separate sections for each content type

A well-organized page takes the reader on a journey from top to bottom, serving structured information in a carefully chosen sequence. However, some visitors only skip through the page, looking for a particular entry or trying to get a quick understanding of the content. A page consisting of several clearly marked sections is more user-friendly in both cases, accelerating fast searches and facilitating better content flow for dedicated users who want in-depth explanations. Ideally, each section should consist primarily of homogenous content – a textual section followed by a data table, for example, but this is not set in stone and depends on the nature of available content. Examples of this model can be found across various industries.

Highlight key information and links

Smart design finds ways to signal which parts of the content deserve the most attention, even on a crowded page. This can be accomplished in various ways, from using color for highlighting to hierarchical content placement. The first step in this process is identification of the most important elements and their most natural spots within the overall content structure. Once it’s clear what needs to be communicated, the designer can search for the adequate visual language that will direct visitor’s attention to the selected portions. The chosen technique will depend on the type of information being communicated – numerical data might fit best in a table, while descriptive text could be presented in the form of a bullet list.

Use multimedia in moderation

We all know that multimedia content is far more expressive than plain text, but that’s another reason to be very careful when placing a large amount of content on a single page. Too many images or videos crammed together without any classification will likely deter users from seeking the content that might interest them. For websites that routinely publish a lot of photos or videos, it’s very important to maintain a proper balance and provide clear categorization and contextual descriptions. Interactive elements should be used sparingly and only when they make sense – having a survey question on the top of each section can only annoy the users.

Don’t forget about empty space

Designers working with a lot of content are often tempted to pack it very tightly to save space, but this is a serious mistake in almost every situation. When visual elements are located too close to each other, they interfere with user’s perception and reduce the chance that individual elements will be noticed. Leaving enough free space around every text box or image might add scrolling length to the page, but that won’t be a problem if the visitor remains interested. Spaced out layout also causes less fatigue when reading large amounts of text, which is another way to improve readability and optimize the page for mass audiences.

Think like a user

Every UX design guideline will tell you that the most beautiful layout means nothing if it’s not practical for the user. To create a page that truly resonates with the audiences, you should put yourself in user’s shoes and think about each design feature from that perspective. Navigation system should be developed with this mindset, allowing quick and intuitive jumps from one key area to another. To help the user even more, it’s possible to provide additional instructions upon request through tools like mouseover text and ‘read more’ links. Headings and subtitles on the page should be simple and intuitive, as too complicated or vague language might discourage some users from inquiring further. Finally, the page should feature clearly distinguishable actionable elements, so that users will instinctively know where to click to initiate an action.

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