Statistically, You’re Not Going To Read This

We’ve all heard it before: people don’t read, they scan. But yet, we never really try and do anything about it. Or at least we never do anything effective about it. Sure, things like bold and italics do help, but they don’t solve the underlying problem that people don’t read.

Which is a problem for people like me. It takes a good couple of hours to write a WPShout post so I’d like to think it’s appreciated. Turns out I’m wrong; in this post we’ll find out how.

Competition?! You didn’t tell me!

I recently ran a competition on WPShout. No, not that one with the twenty or so premium themes up for grabs, but another, discreet one. It was in my post about backing up WordPress; I didn’t make a big thing of it on purpose as I wanted to make sure that only actual readers entered, not people who’ll come to the site, enter the competition and never come back. I thought if I made a mention of the competition in the opening paragraph then most readers would take a look.

I was wrong, again.

Of the twenty commenters, only nine entered the competition.

I find that astounding; you can usually expect 1% of people who view a page to leave a comment and usually these are the people who’ve read the article thoroughly and then have something to say. So it was a bit of a surprise to see that less than half of all commenters had read the whole article (although I’m assuming people who commented but didn’t enter didn’t see the bit about the competition).

You might read this bit

So then, if you can’t change a habit (of not reading), what can you do?

Subheadings. They’re great for breaking up bits of text into readable chunks.

You can also use really short paragraphs.

Or bold, that works too.

Recently on Shout I’ve been trying to halt people scanning by using “alert” boxes, like the one just above. In these I can summarise the main points I’ve just made so if people don’t want to read the whole thing, they don’t have to. Importantly, they halt people scanning. If something’s bright yellow, you’ll give it a second glance.

A good readable font at a decent size is a must, too.

Built into WordPress

Thankfully, all of the things I’ve discussed are really easy to do with WordPress. Obviously with the WYSIWYG post editor you’ve got bold, italics, subheadings (you’ll want “Heading 2” or “Heading 3” from the dropdown that has “Paragraph” by default).

These alert boxes are a little more tricky though. Only a little, mind you. You could just go into HTML view and type <div class="alert"> and </div> around the bit you want to highlight, but that’s a bit of a pain; I’m using the post editor buttons plugin so I just have to click a button and it gets added for me. As far as I’m aware you can’t just add it to the dropdown, but I’d love to hear if anyone knows how.

The alternative

There is an alternative that almost guarantees people read the whole of a post: an awesome art directed post. Jad does them beautifully and I’ve no doubt that they make people stop and read for more than anything I’ve mentioned here. The only caveat is that they take an age to do!

So there we are. Quite a short post. Hopefully you’ve read it and now have bit of a better of an understanding of how to just break up posts a bit to make them easier to read.