The science of making digital content reader-friendly
Vincent Garcia has three quick tips for generating digital content that’s guaranteed to grab the attention of time-poor consumers.
Consumers are now more time-poor than ever, with an alleged attention span of eight seconds, the way we consume information and media has altered fundamentally.
The way we read books, magazines, and newspapers has changed and publishers are increasingly shifting their focus to the digital sphere as a result. However, with online information consumption on the rise, it’s important to understand that movements online need to involve a lot more than just shifting the content to a new medium.
The way that content is processed is different online and, as a result of the move to digital, so too has the way that they expect to engage with the content providers. It’s critical, therefore, to understand how these shifts impact the way that information is processed in order influence future decisions.
The trick for content creators is to capture the attention of the ever-busy reader, and then somehow maintain their engagement for as long as it takes to not only absorb the key messages, but engage with them in a way that drives action. But how do you grab someone who is always on the run, constantly switching between social media platforms, and focused on quick wins?
1. Follow the ‘F principle’
It’s no longer acceptable to only write and create content based on what looks most aesthetically pleasing, or what feels right. Essentially, based on human nature and our natural inclination to now do and complete as much as possible within short periods of time, skim reading has evolved to a whole new level.
The ‘F principle’ acknowledges that most people now read online materials in an F-shape. This means content creators need to focus on putting their most critical content and messages to the top of a page, and make it easy for readers to consume the secondary messages by then skimming along the left-hand side. Strong starts to paragraphs, sub-heading and strategically placed graphics or imagery will all go a long way in getting a narrative across and absorbed effectively by the audience.
2. To write right is to write for yourself
There’s a very simple trick to putting yourself in your readers’ shoes: write for you. Keep vigilant on wording, length, complexity and tone.
When content creators find themselves unsure of where to start or how to make a message compelling for a specific audience, the best way to kick-off the process is to start writing what you’d like to read yourself, then take the time to reflect and refine the work from there.
Writing for yourself also means that the digital content will be fresher and more unique than if you began attempting to entertain or even imitate those around you, you’ll also generate a distinct voice that will be valuable for your brand in the long run.
3. Say goodbye to cluttered layouts
As well as abiding by the ‘F principle’, content creators should always consider how an audience will consume the message presented, and how that user experience will influence their interpretation of the article.
An example of this is by simplifying the content by spreading it out across the screen, and keeping in mind basic rules such as good paragraph structure.
Videos and GIFs can be unintentionally distracting, particularly when they begin playing before the user has clicked on it, or when they are embedded awkwardly within the web page. It may seem simple, but putting this small decision back in the hands of the reader will limit annoyance and increase overall engagement with the content.
There’s a science to making digital content reader-friendly. Luckily, that science doesn’t involve huge spends or complicated design principles.
By getting familiar with the ‘F Principle,’ learning to empathise with your reader, and decluttering, digital content will enhance and optimise almost immediately. The result will be an engaged audience and attractive web space that keeps readers coming back for more.
Vincent Garcia is a technical trainer at Squiz Australia.
Image copyright: Prometeus / 123RF Stock Photo