How to Handle Numbers at Your Website

Websites with useful information have a real SEO advantage over less useful sites. Modern consumers seek out the data they need for decision making, and value the websites that give them that information. Often that means sharing numbers at your website.

I like numbers, myself, but not everyone does. Many people find that their eyes just slide right off the page when they see a bunch of numbers. On the internet, that means they click their “back” button and go elsewhere.

Add a percent sign or something and it’s even worse — it becomes math, and the merest hint of math gives many people a headache. For people with this particular approach to information, anything more mathematical than Only $9.95! can be an invitation to leave your website.

And yet, there are times when numbers are important information for our websites. What’s the solution?

  • Know your audience. If your customers are math-savvy, then they’ll like those numbers. People like us find numbers and formulae a quick and efficient way to convey data, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You just have to know who you’re dealing with, rather than assume that your customers will automatically share your preferences.
  • Use charts or infographics. For many people who don’t like raw numerical data, a nice chart sort of corrals the numbers and makes them appear less threatening. A chart makes information quicker to assimilate and clearer, even for those who like messing with raw data. As for people who really dislike numbers, they can respond to a chart as they do to a picture, and ignore the data rather than try to escape from it. A really complex chart can be sequestered a click away from the main page, so that people who want the math can go get it without frightening the rest of the folks.
  • Use words. Often you can cope with the issue by putting your data into prose. For example, I recently had this phrase from a client: “30%, 50%, 60% of median income of Fayetteville per one quarter of a particular year (per capita median income updated once a quarter by HUD).” It’s possible to phrase this like so: “If you earn less than the average household in Fayetteville, you may be eligible for help with your rent. Call or come by our office to learn how this may affect you.”
  • Finesse the numbers. No, that translation into prose doesn’t have the same meaning as the initial phrase. But people — and it is a large proportion of the general public — who can’t cope well with math won’t be able to get the information from the first phrase anyway. My client needs to meet with these people directly and guide them through the process and explain what it means to them. For that, she needs them to contact her — and that’s her real goal with that sentence.

I tried to find some reliable figures on the percentage of the population who are innumerate, or severely uncomfortable with numbers. Unfortunately, websites writing on this phenomenon tend to say things like “millions of Americans” or “lots of people.” In deference to those readers who’d rather not see numbers, let’s just stick with that.

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