Don’t Forget the Reader

So much for the content and our audience – what about the reader? It’s easy to get advice on the content, the tools you should use, the right title, how to leverage the social web, SEO to drive traffic to your site.. etc etc. But… a visitor is not a reader, web analytics will tell you how many people arrived at the site, but statistics say that 2/10 visitors won’t get much further than that catchy title of yours. In this post, I think about the reader – the one that hangs in there and wants to read your content.

Recently I have realised I am a bit of Luddite, anything beyond five paragraphs of tightly set text and it’s uncomfortable, over eight or nine paragraphs and I have to print it out. I spend the majority of my life sat in front of the LCD screen of my laptop or my desktop PC and I find neither is a comfortable reading experience – but then I don’t have a lot of off-line reading time – so a well meaning pile of undigested great content results. 

Some websites are a joy to read, the combination of compelling, tightly written persuasive content and a beautiful site design can hold my screen attention for longer. Eight paragraphs of tightly written prose by Jeffrey Zeldman about himself, posted on his gorgeous, poster child of a well designed site had me absorbed, but Propelling Brands is full of fantastic, information rich, well researched content and I find myself reaching for the print button each time I come by.

This is explored in this article on List Apart about the way we read, the solitary act of reading, to quote the author (Mandy Brown):

 “Reading is a necessarily solitary experience—like dying, everyone reads alone—but over the centuries readers have learned how to cultivate that solitude, how to grow it in the least hospitable environments.” 

And it’s true, as the author observes, people will read in the most incredible, seemingly uncomfortable places – but totally absorbed by the content. 

As a content author I don’t think we can presume that our reader will make that commitment. Well written, targeted, persuasive content, aimed at a well understood audience and the tools to produce it – is not the whole Persuasive Content picture. Unsurprisingly, as experts on site design, both Zeldman and Mandy Brown demonstrate that it’s also about a clear, easy to read, accessible site.

Well.. this is my eighth paragraph and you are still here, although having read these articles I think I need to give my site design a bit of thought and I wonder if you have printed this out?

Fancy more of this?

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