Website Writing Guide

Writing for government websites

How to avoid overwhelming users

Users are easily overwhelmed by large slabs of text and long pages that require a lot of scrolling.

Avoid overwhelming them by organising the content under headings and in layers, with the content being revealed with increasing depth – see the Iceberg approach. This allows users to scan the content quickly to see whether they want to go to the next level. The levels might be presented all on one page under appropriate headings or across a series of pages depending on its complexity and depth.  

Level 1: Provide an overview of the content in only a sentence or two so the user can see at a glance whether the page is worth reading.

Level 2: Provide content in sufficient depth to satisfy most users.

Level 3: Present everything you have on the subject with links to related content (eg PDFs and to other websites) and opportunities to interact with the content (eg feedback, polls, questionnaires, blogs).

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Online newspapers use this layering technique. A snippet of a story is presented on the home page worded in such a ways as to grab the user’s attention (Content level 1). Clicking on the heading or snippet takes the user to a second page that presents the bulk of the story or content (Content level 2).  If users still want more information, view a video or contribute comments they can go to the next level (Content level 3).

Example from

Follow each link to see an example of each level of content.

Content Level 1 – a heading and a few words sufficient for the user to determine if the page might be relevant to them Better example

Content Level 2 – sufficient content to satisfy most users 

Content Level 3 –  for those who want even more, there are numerous links to external websites that provide detailed, related content eg the HealthInsite website


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