Corporate communication is increasingly being carried out through laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Engagement and connection with customers now occurs over a user interface through digital content more often than not. Thus understanding the differences between digital content and print content will provide your company with an exceptional advantage over the competition. If you can master the following three aspects of web design, you can expect positive results including reader engagement and improvement in online performance.
1. Be Consistent
Readers need a consistent page-to-page experience. Consistency is an innate need common to all. Inconsistency makes us uncomfortable. From a macro view, research shows that inconsistency causes humans discomfort because we cannot predict or control our future. Research also shows that consistency creates trust, and this relationship can be directly applied to digital content.
Maintain a consistent tone and writing style throughout your website. Also, be consistent with your navigation; readers appreciate it when the buttons they click bring them to the information they are expecting. Consistency in design is also crucial. Maintain the same design elements throughout your site. By maintaining consistency, you are also building customer trust.
2. Avoid Jargon
Nobody likes to feel like the outsider. Nothing can generate this feeling more than industry jargon tossed into the content of a website. On a grand scale this is due to the concept of in-group/out-group identification. Basically this concept implies that people maintain self-esteem by feeling as if they belong to groups that are important to them. If they feel as if they are not a part of a particular group, they develop an out-group bias, and are repelled from anything associated with that particular group.
Jargon separates you from your customers at both a conscious and unconscious level. Content that is readable and easy to understand will keep the reader on the page and on your team.
3. Envision the Letter ‘F’
The most important thing to know about digital content is that people read it differently than print content. In fact, they don’t really read it at all – they skim it. Eye-tracking studies have revealed that when searching through text, a reader’s gaze will create an F-Pattern. The reader will skim horizontally across the top of the page and the middle of the page, then skim down the left side of the page.
The above information indicates the importance of placing important information within this F-Pattern. Thus the top left hand corner receives the majority of the reader’s gaze. So, if you place the key components of your content in the top half of the page, ideally towards the left, then your readers are more likely to find the information they are looking for.
In sum, the user interface is a brand new frontier with endless ways to engage your target audience. With the increase in Internet availability and the rise of Social Media Marketing, it is becoming increasingly important to create digital content and websites that engage the reader. An engaged reader is an interested reader. And an interested reader is likely to become a customer.
- Festinger, L. (1957) A theory of cognitive dissonance. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.
- Tajfel, H. (Ed.). (1982). Social identity and intergroup relations. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
- Jakob Nielsen (2006-04-17). “F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content”
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