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Making best use of lists

Much of your web content should be made up of lists, carefully constructed to be as readable as possible.

Web user are task driven, and have tiny attention spans. They rarely read all the content on a page.

Chunking is a very useful way to break down your web content into pieces that your users are more likely to pay attention to, and so get your key messages across well.

It means you present small pieces of information in a well-organised format, instead of long blocks of text. Like breaking things up with subheadings.

Watch the video

The Effective Digital Content video on chunking explains this further. You can watch the video below or on Media Hopper.


One of the easiest and most effective ways to chunk your content is to use plenty of lists. It can be useful to think of all of your content as a series of lists.

For a list to be easy to scan, it should have:

  • 3 items at minimum
  • 9 items at most, except in specific circumstances
  • clear links between the items
  • keywords pushed to the front

Keep the flow of a sentence

Many lists are a series of similar statements and should flow together.

(The introduction to the list) + (any one of the list items) should read as a coherent sentence.

It’s useful to really think about how you can best group items to have as much in common as possible.

Imagine, for example, that you were recommending activities that a visiting student should do while in Edinburgh.

Before you go home, you should:

  • visit Edinburgh Castle
  • go to Glasgow
  • go on an underground ghost tour

The key words aren’t at the front of these bullet points, and there is some needless repetition that makes it look untidy. Think instead about what each of these items have in common, and bring this together.

Before you go home, you should make sure you’ve seen:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Glasgow city
  • an underground ghost tour

Style guide

Lists are one of the few areas where the web style guide differs from the print version. More punctuation is recommended in print content, including the use of semicolons at the end of each item and a full stop at the end. These aren’t needed in web content.

Page 19 of the Web Style Guide gives full details on how lists should be formatted.

Web Style Guide – University Website Publishing

Subheadings and links

The chunking introduction video above refers to other videos within Effective Digital Content that talk about managing small pieces of information effectively.

Watch them on Media Hopper:


Summaries and page titles

Link text

Link placement

Readable web addresses

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