With the tools of social media and easy-to-use blogging platforms, everyone can be a publisher now. However, capturing your audience’s attention and ensuring they comprehend your content is much harder on the web and especially mobile screens. This is due to several reasons:
- Mobile screen reading is slower: it takes more time to focus your eye on a 3.5 x 6.5-inch screen.
- However, people reading on a mobile screen don’t have as much time. They are typically reading to fill short periods of downtime, like when they are waiting in line or multitasking. Or they are searching for information and want an answer quickly. For this reason, mobile readers are usually distracted easily and don’t pay as much attention.
- This causes lower comprehension (around 48% lower according to a University of Alberta study). Comprehending content is more difficult on a mobile screen, because readers have to scroll more and remember what they are scrolling past. It’s more difficult for readers to look back at what they just read for reference than in a newspaper, magazine, book or even a laptop.
So how do you ensure your audience is not only reading, but also understanding what you’re publishing on your websites and social media pages, and in marketing emails and text messages? I recently watched a PRSA webinar in which Ann Wylie, president of Wylie Communications, shared several helpful tips. These included:
- Get to your point faster by cutting the clutter. She shared the example below:
- Make your content skimmable by adding more whitespace, bullet points and links.
- Avoid italics. They are hard to read on screens and don’t jump out to the eyes like they do in traditional print.
- Use more precise nouns rather than adjectives. For example, if you’re describing a dog, you may say, “a black six-week old Labrador” rather than a “cute puppy”. The first description may be longer, but it paints a better picture for the reader rather than using deceiving words like “cute” that will need more explanation later. Only use modifiers that change the image so you’re not wasting your readers’ time.
- Capture your readers’ attention quickly at the top of the screen. In newspaper days, writers would put the most important information above the fold. For mobile screens, that fold is much smaller.