Promising Useful Content: 5-second cheatsheet

No one reads anymore. We scan a website or document, deciding in about 5 seconds if it merits attention.

Does Your Document Pass the 5-Second Test? Physical elements such as formatting, colors and layout help your reader quickly understand if your content is useful to them.

  1. The shape of the content: Is it a massive block of text, or is it approachable, with lots of white space?
  2. First impression: Does it look like readers expect it to? If it’s a professional document does it look professional; if it’s fun does it look fun? (Authoritative, informative, trustworthy, entertaining, etc.)
  3. Colors: Are they useful, appropriate, and easy to read?
  4. Hierarchy: Do headings and organization help readers move through the document and easily find what they want and need?
  5. Words that stand out: Are titles, captions and headings informative and visually different from the rest of the content? Are important words and ideas bolded, italicized, or surrounded by white space? (And is that kept to a minimum? Remember, if everything’s important, nothing stands out.) Do the first-seen words reflect your readers’ needs and interests?

Helping readers make quick, accurate evaluations supports their productivity and shows respect for their time and energy. Those who stick around will already be engaged with your content, which means less work for you. And less work for you means more time to play Angry Birds, or whatever you do when the boss is not around.

Lucinda

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Lucinda Atwood is a master teacher and coach who makes learning public speaking fun and easy. (Yes, it's possible.) She's a Communication Consultant based in beautiful Vancouver Canada.
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