When Looks DO Matter

We’re talking about digital beauty here — not the personal kind

Looks DO Matter - Twenty HatsWhen it comes to writing for the digital world, looks really do matter.

I say this as someone who likes to blog and teach writing skills to my nonprofit colleagues.

For all of the time we spend on crafting, say, a compelling story, it’s the way a story looks that makes the difference between someone clicking away from your website or sticking around.

For volunteer managers, a digitally attractive post means more inquiries from prospective volunteers. For development directors, that means more stakeholders who may someday become donors.

The Internet world is very different from the pen and ink world. We go to online to get something done:

get information ─ talk with someone ─ buy something

And the quicker we find what we’re looking for, the quicker we take action.

We know all this because, in the 1990s, Jacob Nielsen started testing Internet users to understand how they access the digital world. He has lots of fascinating studies where he did things like track user eye movements and collect data.

One of Nielsen’s findings is that online users don’t read word for word– they scan.

That means you need to think about how your story looks on the screen and make the important points pop out.

Here are two simple practices to get you started, courtesy of Mr. Nielsen (and modeled for you here):

#1 — Keep your paragraphs short

Writing one long chunky paragraph is a sure-fire way to lose your reader. Since readers are scanning, make it easy for them with paragraphs that are three sentences long at most.

One sentence paragraphs are equally great.

So are phrases – or just;

Words.

#2 — Break up your text with eye-grabbing visuals

Since your readers are scanning, you want to make sure the most important points pop out.

There are lots of simple ways to do this:

  • Bulleted or numbered lists
  • Photos and other graphics
  • Hyperlinks
  • Headers

The visuals are part of the process of writing for an online audience. If you don’t consider them, you don’t have a complete piece. But playing around with the look of things can be fun – it’s like a beauty makeover for your marketing that creates great results.

Want some more tips? 

I have Seven Pointers for Writing a Web-based Story that will help you craft great-looking and great-reading posts every time.  Email me and I will send you the pointers – and add you to my mailing list for more practical skill-builders.

Tweet this post! If you agree with my POV, feel free to send this message:

Looks DO matter when you market online. Attract more volunteers or donors by attending to the visuals, http://twentyhats.com/?p=1845

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