Comprehension Harder for Online Readers
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Comprehension Harder for Online Readers

Tips to help online readers read

By Janet Garraty

A growing number of studies are beginning to determine that reading comprehension is suffering in the digital age. As such, businesses, bloggers and content marketers need to develop strategies and alternatives to help their online communities and visitors overcome some of the obstacles.

Here are some barriers readers, even unconsciously face when reading online content.

The Physicality of Reading

Research indicates reading on a screen is harder than reading print.
Scientific American, a science and technology publication, states reading a physical book or magazine allows us to gauge where we are in the thick of a text. The paragraph’s relation to the end of a page and other landmarks help guide readers through a structured process.

Computer screens and mobile devices offer no such landscape and with other distractions like ads and pop-ups readers have a more difficult time working their way through text.

The light emitting from a digital screen may also play a role in reader fatigue, the article stated. The American Optometric Association officially refers to this eye strain as computer vision syndrome.

Competition for a reader’s attention is fierce SocialMediaIcons

Google reports it receives four million search queries per minute.

Here are some other daunting statistics from Susan Genelius, writer for ACI.

Every minute:
• Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content.
• Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times.
• Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos.
• YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.
• Email users send over 200 million messages.

What readers do as a result

To reduce the difficulty in reading on screen, people scan rather than read for the information they are looking for, quickly discarding what they do not think they need.

Even with the help of a good font size, smartly crafted subheads and bullet points, readers will still cherry pick what they want.

FShapedReadingOnlineEye scan studies by the Nielsen Norman Group show people read computer screens in an F shape. The cluster area most read are the first two paragraphs and subheads that stream down the left side of the page.

Help a reader out

Web users want information they can act upon. So, start by identifying who you are really looking to attract and cater to that audience.

Understand where they are in the buying path, says Winnie Anderson, the sales success detective. Are they at the beginning of the process, middle or are they about to make a decision?

Meet readers where they are and move them through the buying path with useful information.

What is in it for me

What the reader needs must rule supremely in your head when creating content. Tape this statement to your monitor or write it on the back of your mobile device. It is that important.
• Concentrate on answering their potential questions in the very first sentence, but no later than the third.
• Use images; relevant and quality images including info graphics, screenshots and interesting images of people.
• Pay attention to the layout of your site to reduce problems in reading, listening or watching content. Talk with your web designer (I know some good ones) to ensure quality readability throughout your entire site.
• Less is more. Resist the urge to oversell because that often leads to over-done copy. Give readers a reason to come back instead with an appropriate call to action; signing up to get your white paper, e-book, informative newsletter, or quote.

While video, graphics and audio content go a long way to help with content consumption, reading will remain a fundamental part of communication.

Contact Janet Garraty at Write It Like You Mean It to discuss ways in which we can help you deliver the kind of content that grows your business, builds your brand and makes you proud.
Contact us HERE.