Perhaps it’s just me but giant blocks of online text make my brain shut off.
It can be the most interesting story about the most interesting topic in the universe, but if the piece is written in 12-pt Times New Roman (vomit) with no paragraph spacing or images, my brain checks out within the first couple of lines.
I’m not alone.
Be kind to eyeballs
As a writer working predominantly in the digital space, I know how much effort goes into conceptualising, researching and creating a blog post, article or email newsletter.
As a reader, however, I couldn’t give a damn. That’s because after spending hours staring, usually unblinking, at multiple screens, my eyes feel (and sometimes look) like this:
As I have the luxury of being both a reader and a writer, I thought I’d give you some tips on how to create more captivating digital pieces that are designed to keep visitors on your page a little longer (which means that they’re more likely to be absorbing what you’ve painstakingly created).
Note: These pointers do not focus on the writing, but rather on the layout of your piece.
Use headings and text appearance
Headings are a fantastic way to break up your text and serve 2 main functions.
- They give the eye a break from the size and spacing of body of the content.
- They provide the gist of the whole piece at a glance; if used correctly, your reader will be able to take away something from the blog (or mailer) simply by reading the headings.
Playing with the size of your text throughout the piece also creates interest and, in addition to headings, allows you to highlight specific information within a paragraph. Doing this allows you to get your most important point across without the reader having to read every single word.
When creating something visual, throw around the term white space. This white space creates a blank canvas from which the important parts of the design to leap out at the viewer.
Paragraphing is white space for text.
Break large bodies of text into smaller sections using paragraphing, as it’s easier for the reader to keep track of where they’re at in the piece (especially if the text is small).
It also has the added bonus of helping you as the writer to keep your writing free of random and superfluous text that bogs down the flow of the piece.
So, use paragraphs. Preferably short ones. Please and thank you.
The opposite of white space is colour (obviously). Used correctly, it helps to break the monotony a white page populated with black or grey text.
When using colour, remember that you’re not creating a Picasso painting. You’re after pops or splashes of colour that catch the eye. When used in moderation, it’s a great way to bring your brand colours subtly into written pieces.
Just please, for the love of all that is good in this world, don’t use white text on a black page. While this particular effect has applications in digital writing, page after page of it affects people’s ability to see, especially if they have sensitive eyes.
There is a well-known cliché that insists that “a picture is worth 1,000 words”. I think that the 1,000 words it’s communicating are still vitally important, but that’s a whole other conversation.
Images are super helpful online as they break up large blocks of text in an appealing and interesting way.
They can provide context for idea-based and concept pieces. They’re also a great sales and marketing tool for businesses selling physical products as they give readers the ability to see before they buy.
As mentioned in the bright pink block at the top of this post, we don’t read digital writing in the same way as we read stuff offline. Instead of moving logically from left to right, taking in every word, instead our eyes tend to scan erratically.
- Bullet points help guide the eyes
- making it easier
- to scan text quickly
- without losing too much context.
- It’s a simple and effective tool for communicating USP’s.
Putting it all together
Don’t go overboard though, ye’hear. The aim is not to assault your readers’ senses.
A blog, article or mailer is still a text-based piece so use these tools in moderation. Think of your full piece as the movie and the headings, colour, images, bullet points, et al as the trailer that gives the reader a taste, enticing them to read in more detail.
Lastly, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to jazzing-up digital content. You’ll need to play around to find what works for both you as the writer and your readers. Luckily that bit’s pretty fun.
Enjoy your experiments and, if you fancy, pop me a comment to let me know what’s worked for you.