“No one reads.”
This is a phrase that designers use to try to get their clients to edit their website and email text. While the designer may have an ulterior motive that probably includes more room for eye-catching imagery— it is a truism in the Internet age that we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. A study done in 2015 by Microsoft Corporation found that people tend to lose concentration after just eight seconds. The average attention span for a goldfish is nine seconds. That is very little time to get your reader’s attention.
We are overwhelmed with the written word online. Twenty-seven million pieces of content are shared every day on the Internet. People are constantly reading: email, social media, text messages, websites, blogs.
One response to the avalanche of wordiness online has been the increased use of video, seen with the rise of YouTube, Snapchat, Vimeo, Vine, and others. However, even video frequently includes subtitles now, because the user may be in a situation where they can’t listen to the audio.
Designers to the Rescue
This overabundance of words means that the competition for attention is stiff and so the design world has responded with the more minimal designs you are seeing on the Web today. Designs that include:
- Large “hero” images at the top of websites, and more imagery in general throughout pages. (The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum website is a great example.)
- Flat Design – the omission of any modeling on buttons or page graphics in favor of plain colored boxes (think the iPhone interface or the Windows 10 tiled design).
- Simplistic email designs with large imagery and very little text. Many of the most popular online email applications like MailChimp and Constant Contact provide templates that allow for very little text content.
- Infographics that can be used to illustrate statistics and trends at a glance.
Stemming the Flood of Words
If you want to make your organization’s communications more effective and prevent your members from being overwhelmed with a verbose tsunami of language, you need to put your content on a word diet.
Don’t expect people to read content that seems neither easily scannable nor relevant for them. Long text blocks, unnecessary instructions, promotional writing and “smalltalk” should be avoided on the web. People only read word-by-word when they are truly interested in the content. They tend to skim pages looking at headings, short paragraphs and lists. Therefore, web pages need to be stripped down to the essentials. Convey information that is of value. Pay attention to length, format and the voice of your content. Make sure your content is answering a question and not telling a lengthy story.
Email should focus on just one subject per message sent. Use an email subject line that communicates exactly what you need your recipient to know. Use relevant, eye-catching imagery to convey your point. Or, instead of an image, use a short, headline in a large font size to catch attention, along with a short bit of text to elaborate, and a call to action.
Designers have always known that less is more when it comes to their design’s content. Fewer words is refreshing. Be good to your designer and to your audience.
Want to learn more about how you can improve you web presence? Contact our award-winning design studio.