What is the relationship between content reading and the user experience?
1 August 2014
Let's start off with a personal survey: to which statement do you relate?
Every article I read on the internet, I read in its entirety: from its beginning to its end.
I usually enter the article, read the title, maybe the introduction. I then search for lines required in order to understand the bottom line.
If you found yourself choosing the second statement, you undoubtedly reassure the researches and surveys' results: people don't read articles, they skim through them.
Our skimming habits are understandable in light of the website inflation, the information overload and the lack of time. When looking for something specific (and the article indeed interests us), the chances of us reading its entire contents rise.
What happens at our workplace?
Our skimming habits are copied to our work environment. With an overload of information, instructions, procedures and too many tasks to perform- the chance we actually read procedures/professional information is slim (even if their content is very important).
When working with different companies and organizations I am exposed to the amount of information daily written information distributed to the workers. Many resources are invested in writing these contents, in summarizing them as much as possible and transferring to them to the relevant workers hoping they read, comprehend and implement. Nevertheless, not all the information is read and is transferred to the workers as required.
So what do we do about this?
We must consider the users already at the stage of writing the content and give more 'space' for the user experience by making the content itself accessible.
How can we do this?
Hereby are some suggestions that may ease the reading and ensure that the critical message was indeed fully transmitted, including work procedures and work processes that contain much indispensable information:
Visual index: enables the reader to quickly understand what is to be found in this document and in the case of work procedures will provide the user with a document map that enables understanding the process simply. A smart document format provides an excellent solution for this need.
Colors, pictures & icons: colors, pictures and icons are everywhere and prove liveliness. Furthermore, the photographic memory assists us in remembering what we read or at least where we read it. That said, we must be cautious and not overload the document with colors. If we included colors or icons we must make sure that they are of the same 'language' and keep an overall clean visibility.
Short, categorized segments: it is easier and less intimidating to begin reading content divided into short segments than to read an entire page (if not more) full of text. Don't forget concise writing.
Attractive titles: generates interest and curiosity. Furthermore, it is recommended to use questions as a title according to the type of content and document type. This makes the user participate in a 'dialogue' with the document.
A "punch line": extracting the important "bottom line" as an introduction for the content so that even if the user doesn't read all the content we can still ensure that the main message is transmitted successfully. It is possible to extract one sentence and use it under the title 'in a nutshell' or up to 3 sentences as a brief summary of the content (relevant when most of the content cannot be summarized).
Spacing and pagination: simple and effective. The color white soothes the eye and eases focusing on differently colored content.
Organizational content (whether a procedure, a work process, instruction or even a newsletter) is important and is indispensable. If it could have been discarded-it would be advisable to indeed do so and spare the time and effort invested in writing the document. Nevertheless, the importance of the knowledge does not ensure reading it. We must assist the reader/create an engagement in order for the reading to actually happen.
If you've reached this far, I hope you reached here by reading and did not skim your way through this article, thus proving I have successfully implemented my own suggestions.
I'd be glad to hear from you about other ideas or examples of cases in which designing helped transmitting the organizational and professional content.