I know we all wish ours was the only article that anyone read today. But it's not the case. People read (or attempt to read) tons of articles a day. And because of that, they've developed a particular approach to reading our articles.
Everyone says content is king. And it's true, if you're not writing useful and targeted copy, then why would someone stop by your site (other than your mom)? Content is critical. It's king!
But I've followed way too many links to pages that I refused to read. I bet you have too. I'm hoping you'll read this post to the end. But I can't know. None of us can.
So today I'd like to tell you the four reasons I leave a post without reading it and I think you'll see a bit of a trend.
- I'm not engaged quickly. The title promises one thing and the first paragraph doesn't grip me or doesn't relate to the title.
- The font is too small. I feel like I need a magnifying glass.
- The line length is too long. Then it feels like a text box.
- The line spacing is too tight. This makes the lines sit on each other and the page looks overwhelming and intimidating.
Did you notice the theme? It's all about Design!
I'm not a stellar designer. But I know what I like and what I can't stand. And readability is one thing I must have. So even if you have great and amazing content – if you wrap it up in really crappy design, chances are that I'm going to walk. So let's see if I can help at all when it comes to the last 3 of the 4 items listed below.
Remember when Times New Roman 12pt was in? Well, today 16 or 18 is the new 12. We're not young folks. So don't make it hard to read your posts. Make the text bigger. Please. I'm using 18 for my site. Hopefully you're not having any trouble reading this.
I know some of you run with a design where the post is the only thing on the page. That's beautiful. I love it. But don't make the width of that content container too wide. Know why? Because our eye balls naturally run back to the beginning of the line (remember when you read text books and you were lost in the middle of the line?). Shorter line lengths help readers move through content quicker.
Obviously the length is dictated, in part by the size of the font. But here I'm using about 530 as the width (not including margin and padding spacing). Yours can be a bit longer or shorter, but don't let your line run on forever because I'll get tired and stop reading.
I'll throw in here right away that breaking up content into shorter paragraphs and using headers really helps. But beyond that, give your content some room to breathe. I use a good amount of spacing so that it's easy to read my copy.
So while content may be king, design is queen. It's a critical component to making sure your content is widely read and shared.
As for the first issue – the attention grabbing necessary at the start of a post – I can't solve that one for you. You need to do it yourself. But I will say this – today I was talking with an exec for a software company who partied a bit last night. He said to me, “You know what's weird? I always wake up on my bed the next morning naked face down.”
Now let me ask you this. If he started a blog post out with that line, you'd read the rest, wouldn't you. Come on. Admit it. Some of you would. I know you!