Website copy 101: reading vs. visiting a website

BY Joseph Phillips
Two small children playing on smartphones.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Online, we’re constantly absorbing and responding to information. But that’s not reading.

When was the last time that you settled down into your favourite reading nook, put some soothing background music on, and lit a scented candle… to take in an organisation’s corporate website?

Like, never.

This kind of reading reading that we do for leisure is something totally different from the functional consumption of information that takes up most of our cognitive effort when browsing the web.

Table showing difference between how people read a book compared to a website


When browsing the web, we scan, skim the surface, navigate in completely non-linear patterns to get the gist of things—all the while half-distracted by something completely different entirely.

Readers only read 20% of the words on an average web page.

The way we treat websites is way closer to how we deal with our letter, flyers, and various junk mail that drop through our mailbox—skim, pick out what’s important, mentally separate the important from the extraneous, return to it later (maybe)—than it is to how we read a book.

So no, your website is not the latest, significant addition to the literary canon. But neither does it need to be.

It just needs to do its job: impart information, engage, elicit action.

On to the next thing.


The art and science of writing for the web


When we realise that our website exists more as a utility than as a piece of literature, we can adapt your style of communication to suit.

That’s where writing for the web comes in.

Writing for the web describes writing that’s adapted to the reading habits of people when they’re online: to scan, to pick out keywords, and not read everything word-for-word.


Learn more


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