Modular content for comparison

Readers want to compare and contrast information easily. They face information overload: seeing too many items that talk about similar things. If comparing things is too taxing, they may give up. Adopting a modular approach to content eliminates this friction. 

Michael AndrewsPublished on Jun 18, 2020

Poorly structured content makes comparisons difficult. Readers need to jump between different pages of information and remember details they looked at previously. Some readers resort to opening up many tabs in their browser—though that’s not an option if they are using a smartphone. 

Consider what information readers will want to compare. By structuring the content, you’ll be sure to provide the most important information that readers will be looking for. 

How readers compare information

Readers consult content online to explore what options are available and figure out which one is best for them. Their exact goal can vary somewhat, depending on how deeply they need to delve into the information.

Reader’s objectiveRole of content
Understand the range of differences between alternativesPoint out areas of difference between the alternatives and areas where they are comparable
Contrast two things that seem alike but aren’tShow the degree of difference, often for only one or two aspects; point out the one key difference that makes a difference
Compare many alternatives according to specific criteriaHelp readers focus on particular criteria and let them select items to compare according to that criteria
Make an informed choice between various optionsHelp readers find the best option based on multiple criteria, showing the best overall

If presented poorly, important details can get lost amidst all the other information. The structuring of the content helps the reader focus on what’s important.

Applications of modular comparisons

Modular content items can be used to compare and contrast information about many kinds of topics. Each item that can be compared becomes an interchangeable module.

Two examples of comparisons that use modular content are:

  1. Pricing tables showing prices and benefits of different options
  2. Product pages showing features and specifications

Providing such comparisons is crucial to the success of businesses. UX writers look at how to tweak this content in such comparisons so that it is most effective.

Side-by-side comparisons are often presented in tables. But unlike “data tables” containing endless rows of data, comparison tables show information about a few aspects relating to only a few items. It curates the most important information for readers to know.

Example of a product comparison for Apple watch models

The information that’s presented is diverse too: facts, figures, a bulleted list of statements, and sometimes graphics or video. Scores or ratings may also be included.

Comparisons can also be presented in parallel columns with headings separating the sections of text discussing aspects of the topic. If a narrative text approach is used, the length of each section should be roughly equal to allow readers to see the parallels. For example, a narrative comparison can be used for items that have sections discussing their respective advantages and disadvantages. It could also be used to compare the responsibilities of different job roles to see the differences between junior and senior levels. 

How it’s done

Comparisons are possible when two or more content items based on the same content type are placed together. The content type provides a consistent structure for the content. All items based on this structure will have the same elements, which allows items to be compared easily.

When structuring the content, you can include links to related content or show more detailed information on demand. For example, you can link other items, such as definitions of terms, if you’d like to provide more explanation.

If you want to provide a dynamic table where readers can select criteria and items, you’ll want to work with a front-end developer to enable that functionality. They will be able to use the structured content models to fetch the details that readers request. 

Written by

Michael Andrews

I’m Content Strategy Evangelist at I appreciate the value of great content. My mission is to help others produce the best content they can.

More articles from Michael