7 Effective Readability Tips Guaranteed To Grab Attention

Roughly 64% of all readers (okay, I’m just estimating here) skim over articles and if not instantly intrigued by some part of it, will move on to the next one. You’ve done it, I’ve done it, we’re all pretty much guilty of it. All of that hard work that we pour into an article can all go to waste if certain elements aren’t in place to either grab the attention of the reader or at least to help them easily scan.

So what are these elements that I’m speaking of? I’m talking about anything that can help to catch the eye of the reader and to aid in breaking up monotonous blocks of text. If you’ve noticed the average time readers are spending on the articles that you pour your heart and soul into beginning to slip, try implementing some of the techniques below to help spice up your next masterpiece.

Leading In With Drop Caps

W hile you mostly see the drop cap being used within newspaper articles or any sort of print media, there is no reason not to re-create it digitally. The large strong opening character can lasso in the attention of the eye and almost force a reader to well… read. SpyreStudios will sometimes employ this technique when kicking off one of their excellent articles. Note the example below:

Want one for your site? They’re quite simple to throw together with just a little CSS and can easily be summoned via HTML. Here is an excellent quick tip on how to include drop caps on your blog.

Introductory Sentences

As you may have noticed when leading into this article, just below the post image, I included a short introductory sentence (removed with latest theme) that helped to briefly cover what this article was about. Boagworld does an excellent job of including this technique by altering the text color as well.

Let’s face it, larger text catches our eye and when coupled with clever wording can easily hook a reader into the article. Give it a try the next time you crank out an awesome post.

Subheadings That Stand Out

Have you ever ran into an article whose subheadings naturally blended into it’s surroundings? Not very easy to read is it? It’s good practice to make sure that the text in your subheadings stand out from the crowd when comparing them to further subpoints or even the body of the article. Chris Spooner gets creative with his subheadings over at Blog.Spoongraphics by making them impossible to miss.

You can take them to the next level as in the example above or simply use a strong enough font weight so that they can’t be missed. As you can see on my site, I’m using a bold Arial font in addition to a 1px gray underline in hopes that you can’t miss it.

Don’t Compete With Your Sidebar

What do you mean? Our sidebar plays a major role in getting our visitors to interact with our site. While it’s a good idea to include popular posts, subscription options, social media platforms etc. we must be careful not to distract the reader from the meat and potatoes, which is content. My sidebar should have already ended.

Remember, if it’s too long or too flashy, it can easily steal the show. Do what needs to be done and then cut it off where you feel is appropriate.

Bullets To The Eye

One surefire way to stop a reader from scanning is to throw in some well-placed bullets. It’s just difficult for a readers eye to skim past them. While placement of your bullets is important, don’t neglect to add some relevant material within them.

You can stick with the defaults or add your own image in place of the stock options, but remember, it’s a good idea to make sure that they are indented from the copy and with enough space between them to not overcrowd. Customize them or leave them as is, just use them sparingly.

Everyone Loves A Good Quote

I recently read where one of the most re-tweeted tweets on Twitter are quotes. People love the intelligence and simplicity that a clever quote conveys. Try using them within your articles, they’re absolutely wonderful for catching the attention of readers who are notorious for skimming. This would be a good time to show off one of the most beautiful quotes that I’ve ever seen placed within an article, check it out in the post 4 Pixels or Less written by Paddy Donelly.

Get creative with them by changing the text color or maybe adding some well-positioned, attractive quotation marks. When done right, they’re almost certain to instantly grab a readers eye. Find a clever one and you’ll hook them into the article.

Quality Over Quantity

Remember back in college or high school when your professor required you to write that 2,000 word paper over “Managing Marketing Channels and Supply Chains”? Well, we don’t have to be that thorough when we’re writing for the web. The quality of the content far outweighs the quantity of words.

A short concise article with many strong points can be much more effective than a hum-drum screen filled post that reaches far too in-depth. If the scroll bar is any less than a 1/2 inch in height, I begin to get a little scared. Keep your articles at a medium length and your likely to hone in the attention of more visitors.

Agree? Disagree? Want More?

Of course each point made here is relevant to the type of site you own or write for. A professor venting on his personal blog about his theory of how the Romans met their demise is going to approach things a bit more differently when compared to someone explaining how to write for the web.

What secrets do you use to help captivate the attention of your readers? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. Also, If you feel that I’ve missed some crucial elements, it may be because I’ve already tackled them in an earlier post. Thanks!

12 Comments

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  1. Stephanie Boward

    Beautifully written and great points!

  2. Great stuff! Quick question: Was there more that you wanted to include in this post but didn’t for length reasons? If so, what did you not include?

    • I definitely would have touched on line spacing, font size, appropriate padding above and below subheadings and several other important examples.

      This was a follow up to a past article I wrote, 10 Effective Ways To Improve Online Readability, where I covered a myriad of other tips that this post doesn’t mention.

      Would I have made this post longer? I’m pretty happy with where it stands, especially in conjunction with the other mentioned article. The length wasn’t a deciding factor in this case.

      Thanks Trav!

  3. hehe I see what you did there:

    2 paragraphs for opener

    subheading
    1 paragraph
    picture
    1 paragraph

    repeat

    I must say, I read through it and loved it, it was so simple but I was entertained the entire time, great job.

    Love the little interaction on the site too with the sidebar picture.

    • Ahh, you’ve figured out the formula. Shh… don’t tell anyone.

      Glad you enjoyed it Muxx!

  4. NYC

    Really good post you have some really good points to consider for my sites.

  5. Does the drop caps method require manual input in the html(adding a drop caps class) at the beginning of every post? Or is it done automatically somehow?

    • In my opinion they don’t work for every article, so I prefer the manual method.

  6. Beat Attitude

    I’m trying to figure out what it’s called when they put a quote from the article in a text box. Is there a name for this? (Want to figure out how to do it on my wordpress blog)

    Thanks for the article!

  7. Tom

    Niiice thanks for posting these awsome tips :D.

  8. It’s good to see some key pointers to make your site more easier for users and get noticed.

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