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Think about the reader

What device are you reading this blog post?  It may be on your PC, Laptop, Tablet or even phone.  Each device has its own screen size making our eyes adjust at each paragraph, each line, each word.  Would you like to have an image in between to break up the text?  But will the image distort how you will be able to view it depending on your device?  These are all elements the author of any content needs to be aware of.

Think about the reader!

The past twenty years has seen the most dramatic shift in how we read.  The introduction of digital devices allowed us and in particular the younger reader to change their reading habits.  Digital tools have allowed us to partake in online conversations at a fast pace but the downside is how the content has changed as a result.  Texting was one of the first examples to show us how to convey a message with a limit character count.  However, the spelling capability of certain teenagers that continues into adulthood is a cause of certain.  They have become accustomed to this form of language and when it comes to actual constructing of sentences, grammar and spelling it become more difficult (even with spellcheck).  The world as a whole has become accustomed to a fast paced method of communication with texting and now emoji’s.  Although it may be fun, my concern is the level of communication as this generation grow.

Another shift in methods of communication is how we read.  Think about the comparison of concentration levels from reading a book in print to reading a digital format.  Amazon’s original Kindle I will mention first off is the best example of a digital device representing the print edition.  Its aim originally was to look like actual pages and text of a printed book but as a handy carry around and light weighted device.  I will question the smell and I don’t remember having to charge up a book.  It was a good introduction to reading on a digital device.  However for me as someone who is extremely short sighted (think Mr Magoo) and has difficulty with certain light I did find the Kindle more difficult on the eyes to read compared to a printed book.  So I will admit that I prefer to read my Kindle books from the app now on my iPad with a backlight and brighter text.  I also like to option to be able to adjust the font and size of text, so as a reader, this option ticks all the right boxes.   Amazon listened to these comments from readers to allow these necessary changes.

Of course, books are not the only things we read online.  The amount of content online is unless.  My father reads The Examiner online edition now.  He finds it easier and finds a lot of newsworthy content online.  While reading online, he spotted an ad on the right hand side for a Sportswear company.  He is now a good customer being able to purchase his shirts etc. for Lawn Bowls.  Happy him.  Here is the point to this.  My father’s eye was drawn to that ad because on a few reasons.

We (depending on your language though) read left to right.  It is how we learned to read, write and spell.  When a webpage opens, your eye will automatically be drawn to the top left corner of the page.  It is a natural movement as your brain is getting ready to read the material.  As you read the heading, you will automatically drop to the next line and so on.  As you read a line and finish on the right hand side, your eye can be drawn to an advert.  Attention grabbed.  Without finishing what you were reading in the first place you may click on that cleverly placed ad that is probably strategically shown depending on your browser history.  This hyperlink is what is causing reading levels especially for younger audiences to decrease in efficiency.  Although being profitable for advertisers; it is distracting for the reader.

The content you may need to communicate will come in different forms and hyperlinking can at times be a writer’s ally.  An example I do like to show to those who wish to process in their career is the use of hyperlinks in a CV.  As recruiters make their way through countless number of fully worded text that can sometimes appear on your average CV, a link to a LinkedIn page or blog can be welcomed as a desired distraction.  A way to take your audience to a place to show your brand.  Hyperlinks allow us as authors to transport our audience to where they are shown our full brand; the true you.  However, the key is to make sure that we don’t flood our content with too many distractions such as links and images.  The power of the content itself could be lost.  Be mindful of how you communicate and place yourself in the mind of your reader.

  • Is the text broken up appropriately?
  • Are they at the place where they can see my brand or do I need to direct them elsewhere AFTER they have read the content?  The example of a CV and LinkedIn profile or Twitter to website.
  • How is the content laid out?  Are images placed correctly and is the size suitable?
  • Think of font for different devices.  Consider the use of bold or colours to make key words pop.
  • Do I have my information at the end of the content hyperlinked and ready?  Make it easy for the reader to contact you.
  • Finally, always check your spelling!

To finish, the way we read will always remain the same but it’s the distractions that digital reading can bring will make it a harder task for a writer to keep the reader on the page. Make it easy for the reader and finds ways to show your brand stand out online.

Note: Interesting stats on internet usage in Ireland and the devices used:

Source CSO 2014

Interesting article on the changing habits of reading by N. Katherine Hayles


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