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Crafting Digital Content for Life in the Fast Lane.

New York rush hour image

(Image Source: Dreamstime)

Are your readers rushing past you?

Most browsers live in the fast lane, in weaving in and out of content hoping to arrive somewhere that sparks their interest. As they speed past, you and your message can get overtaken or lost in the blink of an eye. How do you get past the two second attention challenge?

Digital layout and copy that gets prospects to stop and take notice.

The keen editorial eye will stop, hook, guide and direct the traffic through the content to the pertinent and important drop off points. Employing imagination and personality with layout, type, graphics, colour, proportion and balance. Signals that determine hierarchy and importance not only in the context of the material, but also in the eye of the viewer.

Creative direction and management points the way.

Readers have individual idiosyncrasies and habits, so won't necessarily digest content in any logical order. They have a tendency to scan, registering images first, skipping to conclusions and focusing on headlines. Rather like a jigsaw puzzle, the edges are pieced together before filling in the gaps.

People will make the time and take the effort to read great novels and long technical texts they think worthy. They approach the ephemera of digital and visual communications with a cursory glance, then generally dismiss it without further investigation.

The art of layout is motivation and management.

Layouts evoke the tone of any printed or digital content. Fast paced, full in your face, product orientated, sublime simplicity with a clarity of expression or complete economy of space. Managing the composition evolves from how the balance, shape, graphics, images, colour and typography is expressed.

Shape the priorities and main points to answer basic questions that readers are going to have. Make them prominent, easily picked out and first to be registered. Create a visual hierarchy that uses strong headlines to grab attention, striking imagery to develop interest and finally compelling text to deliver the message.

Laying out the visual hooks and guides.

Moving the reader to some desired purpose and managing their expectations along the way is the key to engagement.

A good headline is crucial for pulling you in. Bring it alive and make the reader curious. Spell out any benefits they may get for taking an interest. Write for people not search engines. When you force keywords into a headline it becomes clumsy and dull.

Grids and patterns play a significant role in readability and retention. Generous margins and gutters around text and images create open spaces where important points can be projected. Splitting the page width into columns creates more visual interest and helps create a coherent link between relative text and imagery.

Photography communicates literally. Illustrations and graphic diagrams are useful for highlighting special features that interpret technical information at glance. Titles for graphics and captions will clarify the information being displayed.

Content that converts browsers into buyers. 7 eye-catching research results confirmed.

  • Top left gets most attention.
  • People read from right to left in an F-shaped pattern.
  • Make your intro big and bold.
  • People like links.
  • Put your most important content above the fold.
  • Dominant headlines draw the eye.
  • First impressions take less than a second.

©ConversionXL

Break up text, it's for the best.

Ok, so you have my attention, what next? Get your message home by using short sentences, bereft of industry jargon or technical language. Being brief and concise maintains interest and engagement. Long lines of small type becomes tedious to read. Small bites of text will also allow more flexibility in the layout. Feature images that emphasize the message. Use graphics to illustrate complex data that viewers can easily grasp.

Give your copy a breather with sub headings. Make them stand out with devices such as a bold typeface, rules or pointers. These small nuggets are an easy read and call attention to the story. For bulging layouts with too much text, take your blue pencil and cut then and cut again.

To serif or sans serif?

Type is the mortar in the building blocks of layout, so choice of font, weight and colour will make or break it.

Metal type image

Serif typefaces (Times, Garamond and Palatino etc.) help readers recognize characters quickly. The tiny strokes on each character lead the eye across the page from word to word. These fonts are well suited to situations where there is a large amount of written copy, such as technical literature, text books and magazines.

Sans serif typefaces (such as Arial, Avant Garde and Trebuchet) are cleaner and have simpler shapes. Common for smaller amounts of text, they dominate the choice for headlines and are more favoured for contemporary digital publishing and print promotion.

Use cartoon, gothic, script, fancy and artistic typefaces with caution. They are unsuitable for main body copy, but can be used creatively as a graphic typestyle, initials or as an evocation of emotion to reinforce a meme.

The final word - proofreading.

Often overlooked at the last minute, proofreading is one of the most important tasks in publishing. Even if you feel you've looked at the final work so many times that there can't be any mistakes, why not ask someone else to read it over too? A second set of eyes may find something you missed. With even one typo or misspelled word, credibility and quality will suffer.

Double check for homonyms, words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings. Look for words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. Also proper nouns, names of specific people, places and products, beginning with a capital letter wherever it occurs, should be carefully proofed.

Be extra careful with jargon, check unique technology terms and abbreviations. Lastly make sure numbers in telephone details, statistics and technical information are completely accurate.

Getting people to engage and share your content is a crucial element in publishing. Having a good editorial eye will go a long to ensure that you get all the attention your piece deserves.

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Studiografik Digital Design & Publishing