If you wanted to promote an event in front of other people, would you stand on your chair and yell? Would you waive unattractive homemade signs in their face? No? Then stop doing the digital equivalent on your website!
Not all the text that you put on your website is created equal. Often, there will be something that you need to emphasize – something that you need to have stand out so that people will pay attention to it.
Sometimes website content managers who are trying to emphasize text do things like typing whole sentences or paragraphs in all caps, or making their font-color fire engine red (when that clearly doesn’t fit in the color scheme of the website). These attempts to emphasize text– where the content manager is presumably intending to create excitement, or at least encourage participation – can create the impression that the writer (and by extension their organization) is either desperate or deranged.
In emphasizing text, your goal is to create some hierarchies of importance that will assist the reader in making meaning out of your text. This is even more important on websites, because most users are not actually reading – they are scanning for relevant information. When you effectively emphasize text, you are communicating: “This is more important than that” – without overwhelming your user.
Here are some tips for more effectively emphasizing text:
- All caps is the online equivalent of yelling. It’s not that you should never yell – just take care to use it when it might be effective, and know that yelling sparingly will create a better response—no one likes to be yelled at. “RESPOND NOW!” is probably more effective than: “PUT YOUR PLEDGE CARD IN THE ENCLOSED ENVELOPE AND BRING IT ON SUNDAY!”
- It is often helpful to type a single word in all caps as a way of emphasizing it, but think about what you’re actually emphasizing. “The SECOND Annual Fundraiser” is less effective than “The Second Annual FUNDRAISER”.
- Use bolded and italic text in the same way– sparingly and thoughtfully.
- Never use underline to emphasize text on the website! It will be mistaken for a hyperlink. (See how I bolded just the word never in that previous sentence?)
- Using font colors that are odd, or not a part of your website’s color scheme generally draw more attention to themselves than the actual text you are trying to emphasize. You end up distracting from the text, and it looks unprofessional – like using too many different PowerPoint animations, just because you can.
- If you are using a WordPress website, let your theme control the font colors – try using Header 3 or Header 4 from the Format drop-down in the content editor. All that text you put in “special” colors on each page will have to be undone the next time you change your theme! In most cases, using bold and italic maybe all you need to effectively emphasize text.
- It might be helpful to give some thought to your “typographic hierarchy”, which is just a way of saying use your font styles to visually convey meaning–and use that typographic hierarchy consistently within your website. For instance, all the bolded info on your page should have the same degree of relative importance. And under each area with a bolded heading, italics further emphasizes text. Here’s an article for further reading.
- Sometimes it’s not your font styles that conveys meaning and emphasis, but your layout. Centering on event title on its own line can emphasize that event, whether or not the font is bolded or in italics. Content that is laid out in columns side-by-side conveys that the information is of equal importance.
Share your other content emphasis tips in the comments below!