When you look at a newspaper page or a website, where does your eye go first? If you’re a methodical reader – which the majority of us are when it comes to newspaper reading – you will read newspapers from top to bottom (stopping at headlines and photos first), according to The Poynter Institute. Methodical readers use tabs and navigation tools to locate stories when online.
The other style of reading is scanning. Scanners flit from headlines to other elements on the page, maybe catching part of a story before moving on to the next element that catches their attention. They only pay attention to navigation tools online, scanning these items for the story they want to read.
What does this all translate into when you’re trying to get readers to read your content – whether it’s a press release, a newspaper article, website content or even a pamphlet? It means you have to know how to capture the eyes of your reader, and keep them focused on your material by using as many elements as you can.
This is where the power of images, photos, videos and even infographics comes into play. Incorporating visual and interactive elements helps to break up a boring block of text, and graphic elements with action and colors also stand out – like fireworks exploding against a dark sky. The eye is immediately drawn to these elements, and if the information is well presented, the eye will hover for a longer period of time, allowing the brain to process what it’s seeing.
If you have a good action photo, a short video that flows with the context of your article or even a well-done infographic, you’ve given readers a good excuse to keep their eyes focused on the material you are presenting, and hopefully get them to read further.
What makes a good visual element? Read on:
Interestingly enough, The Poynter Institute’s study found that large photos and action shots (especially sports photos) immediately attracted the eyes of all the participants and kept those eyeballs focused in that location the longest. What didn’t work were headshots, small photos or posed shots. For example, a good substitute for a “passing of the check” image is to take an image of how the donation/money raised will be used with people interacting in the photo.
Have a good and clear first screen featuring an action scene when loading a video onto your website. This action scene will attract readers to click on your video. I also recommend keeping videos short – three minutes is long enough. If it’s longer, yes, you might keep a reader’s attention on your video, but once the video is over, they’re going to click through to some other website and not go back to your original message because they’ve forgotten about it.
Good quality graphics, combined with interesting stats or messages are what sell an infographic. Don’t try to dress up weak stats, or worse, try and squeeze a dozen stats or messages into one graphic. Instead highlight at most three strong points of interest and give them a quality graphical element, whether it’s in a chart form, colorful design or attractive imagery added to the infographic.
When looking at a newspaper or news website this week, try this little experiment. Pay attention to where your eyeballs are going, and notice what attracts your attention. It’s a good exercise to help you develop quality materials that will garner notice.