Your website needs less words

Web users aren't going to read a lot of words.

Church websites can be text-heavy. Here’s some research to inform the amount of words you place on your church website:

“On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”

The research is from 2008, but I can’t imagine that we are reading more text since then. If anything, web users would be reading less, and watching more.

The City church website is a great example of less text, and engaging photos, graphics and videos.



  • Nathan Campbell

    I disagree. I think careful information architecture (and video) is the answer to some people not reading much, not not providing the stuff that other people might like to read. The journalistic inverted pyramid comes into play – and its existence as a principle relies on the notion that some people will only read the heading and the first bit of text, while other people want more information.

    “I can’t imagine that we are reading more text since then.”

    I think we are. Or at least certain portions of the population are – the emerging popularity of long form writing on the web, the social web trend for people to consume most of their web media through services where other people are sharing content they’ve found helpful (which I’d argue trends towards more substantial things, or images, rather than pages featuring “less text”), and the perception that something big (that isn’t boring) is something more valuable than something short, have all been part of our thinking in our new church website which is fairly text heavy at a page level, and will feature a mix of short and long posts on the blog.

    I’ve certainly found, and this is a little anecdotal, that sharing stats and traffic go through the roof on my own blog when I’m writing 1,000-2,500 word posts, rather than posts that are shorter, or longer, than that.

    People who want lots of content when making a decision are important readers/users of a site too.

    I think the key is putting the call to action (or next steps) and key details of a page early – and using stuff like Neilsen’s usability principles when writing other content (headings, lists, scannable chunks).

    Plus – the more words you have in your site, that are relevant and answer people’s questions about church, the more search engine possibilities you open up for people searching for specific things from a church using google et al.

    I’d say this is a strategy thing – and the most important thing is to be making sure people can find what they’re looking for as quickly and as easily as possible.

  • Steven Kryger

    Great thoughts Nathan, thanks for sharing. I’m going to see if I can find some more recent data – be interesting to see how the proliferation of tablets and smart phones is impacting on our ability/desire to read too.

    I find that lots of church websites are text heavy, with lots of text to scroll through. While there is a place for text, I don’t think this reflects how people are using websites now – with different types of content to engage with.

  • Nathan Campbell

    The Forbes article I link to above suggests smart phones mean people are consuming more text not less (probably especially commuters).

    I suspect mobile users are accessing church websites for particular bits of information – so our strategy was to try to make that information as easy to find for mobile browsers as possible on the home page. And to put the important stuff at the top of each sub page. I also have a theory that scrolling is preferable on a phone to finding and following links to sub pages – so at times we have one big page (with headings and anchor links) rather than 8 small pages.

  • Paul Clifford

    Sorry, Nathan I was just scanning. I think the jist of what you said was “less text” than “1,000 words” or something like that.

    Just kidding, but I do scan so often that I miss important things. I think a lot of people are like that.

    I write books, so I don’t like this fact, but it’s there nonetheless.

  • Nathan Campbell

    I’m not denying the facts – I, and the writer of the facts (Jakob Neilsen) believe the appropriate response is to write scannable content (headings, dot points, etc).

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