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What is scannability?

Scannability refers to the ease with which users can quickly scan through the content of a webpage, document, or interface to find relevant information. It involves making the content visually and structurally organized in a way that allows users to easily identify key points, headings, important details, or specific sections.

Synonyms: readability, skimmability

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Why is scannability important?

Overall, scannability is important because it respects the users’ time, enhances information retrieval, accommodates different devices, and promotes accessibility for a broader range of users. A high level of scannability reduces cognitive load, and improves overall user experience. 

Here are some of the key points that scannability can help with:

  • Efficiency: Users often have limited time or attention span when browsing online content. Scannable content allows them to quickly locate the information they need without having to read through every word or paragraph. It improves their efficiency and reduces the time required to find relevant content.
  • Accessibility: Scannability plays a role in improving accessibility for individuals with visual or cognitive impairments. Clear headings, well-organized structure, and visual cues help users who rely on screen readers or other assistive technologies to navigate and understand content more effectively.
  • User Experience: Content that is difficult to scan or comprehend can lead to frustration and a poor user experience. By designing content with high scannability, users can easily navigate and understand the information, leading to a more positive and satisfying user experience.
  • Information Retrieval: Scannable content makes it easier for users to retrieve specific information or key points. By using techniques such as clear headings, bullet points, and visual cues, users can quickly identify and extract the information they are seeking.

How to optimize for scannability?

Techniques like using clear headings, bullet points, concise sentences, and visual cues can enhance the scannability of content. 

To be more specific, here are some of the changes you can make in your content to optimize it’s scannability:

  • Use clear and concise headings with keywords
  • Structure content with bullet points and lists
  • Highlighting keywords
  • Break down content into short paragraphs
  • Use enough whitespace
  • Utilize visual cues such as icons, graphics, or illustrations
  • Organize content in a hierarchical structure
  • Write descriptive anchor texts on links  
  • Incorporate relevant images, videos, or infographics to convey information 
  • Test and iterate

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How to test scannability?

Testing scannability can be done through various methods that help gather insights on how users interact with your content. Here are a few approaches to test the scannability of your content:

  • Usability Testing: Incorporate tasks related to scanning and finding specific information during usability testing sessions. Observe how users navigate through the content, what elements they pay attention to, and whether they can quickly locate the desired information. Encourage participants to think aloud, providing valuable insights into their scanning behaviors and thought processes.
  • Heatmaps: Utilize heatmap tools that generate visual representations of where users’ attention is focused. Heatmaps use aggregated data to show which areas of a webpage receive the most attention. By analyzing the heatmap results, you can identify areas that are attracting attention and areas that are being overlooked.
  • A/B Testing: Create multiple versions of your content with different scannability techniques implemented. Perform A/B tests where different user groups are exposed to different versions. Measure user engagement, time spent, and success rates in finding information to determine which version performs better in terms of scannability.
  • Eye-tracking studies: Conduct eye-tracking studies where participants’ eye movements are recorded as they scan through your content. This method provides quantitative data on which areas users focus on the most and how their attention moves across the page. It helps identify patterns and areas that may need improvement.


What are the key elements that contribute to good scannability?

The key elements that contribute to good scannability include clear headings and subheadings, bullet points or lists, short paragraphs and sentences, visual cues, ample whitespace, and a well-organized information hierarchy.

Do graphics help with scannability?

Yes, graphics can help with scannability by providing visual cues, breaking up text-heavy content, and conveying information more quickly and effectively. Relevant images, icons, or infographics can attract attention, aid comprehension, and make the content more visually appealing and scannable.

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