This is not a debate of paper vs digital reading. Assuming you use web presence marketing for your digital marketing efforts and not simply the traditional means, conducting properly a reader’s experience online is crucial to providing your audience with information and/or entertainment and to establish brand loyalty.
The reader experience is similar to the user experience, or the user journey, for that matter in that the user will bounce from your blog or website if it’s not conducive their needs. So how do you improve the reading experience on your website, or other owned media profiles, when no one has time these days, or no one really wants to read these days?
We’re glad you asked.
Simply put: Tell a good story well.
Let’s break that statement down a bit. First, let’s define what reading online is and how it relates to reaching your customers today, a world fraught with novel technology and screens.
What Is the Reading Experience?
Tell a good story well. How you share a story matters.
The online reader experience is how well or efficiently a user processes the text on your site. You understand the importance of the user experience on your website, so the natural successor is the contact of the user’s comprehension of the information you provide about who you are and what you offer.
The online reading experience is part of the user experience.
The online user can navigate your site without a problem. Great! But are they still leaving? Are they still confused by your service offerings or why they should choose your product over your competitors? Or rather, your blog page is a landscape of clever titles but no depth or valuable information. The cars you’re selling are shiny, but your salespeople are sleazy and greasy.
Jabr brings up a good question: “How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read?”
Online readers do not always bring as much mental effort to screens in the first place. Those reading online experience more distractions and obstacles; they look for the easy understanding and move on to the next tab. This reality can be depressing for some, but the reality invites a better understanding of your online audience: reading comprehension decreases online, making the need for clarity that much more vital.
People want the information faster and yet still want to know how you got your information. Not everyone, but mainly Google.
Get to the destination faster, but offer the steps on how you got there.
Our reading habits are changing, but the inherent human need for connection, convenience, and information remains.
Why You Should Care about More Than Just the User Experience
“Unlike vision or speech, there is no direct genetic programme passing reading on to future generations,” reports Wolf on the Science of the Reading Brain. If this is indeed the case, as the next generation continues to learn to read, they will learn to not just read books but read the Internet. Learning to read on the Internet has been something we are adapting to, but are we adapting our marketing efforts as well?
User experience is encompassing. Reader experience focuses on the words you use to get your point across. In other words, the words and your royal pledge to quality content are what sticks and kicks that part of person’s brain to decide whether or not to do business with you.
Think of it this way: When you read a book or have a great conversation, what sticks out? What do you take away from that conversation? Is it the font the publisher used? Or the shirt the person wore? No, not usually. What sticks out to you is what is said. The conversation was meaningful and encouraging so you left the coffee shop with those words floating around your head. When you close that book for the final time, a swirl of words and characters that you became attached to linger long after you replace the book on the shelf.
The point is this: User experience is the overview that pulls the potential customer in. The content is what gets them to stay.
Improving the Reader’s Experience
Tell a good story well. Create a story a reader can connect with and do so efficiently, clearly, and sometimes—beautifully.
In the case of digital reading vs print reading, you’ll need to understand your audience. People who still read print (we know you’re out there, and we love you and appreciate you, keep reading those books and supporting your local newspapers and book stores) enjoy the chunky paragraphs and the texture of a page and the control of turning said page.
The digital reader, on the other hand, will probably, most likely, definitely be reading on their mobile device. In which case, smaller paragraphs with easy, intuitive navigation and headers will make the experience enjoyable.
But we can learn from print readers. Kindles and other e-readers out there grow ever-popular, but as studies show, people still prefer the tangibility of a book. How does this play into your user’s reading experience on your site?
People still enjoy participating with a page. While you’ll never give them the experience of turning a page, you can still offer a similar experience by providing text that allows the user/reader to “understand it with clarity.”
Don’t sacrifice authenticity and clarity for the sake of experience.
This sounds harder than it is. With the decline of deep reading, focus on finding the balance of clear content with a reader’s intent. Print sticks, but Internet is convenient. How do you make what you write stick AND convenient?
What now, dear Internet reader?
Introducing the Prescription to Quality Content: RX (Reader Experience)
You know how to make sure the website is navigational and intuitive to your user. Now use the right words to ensure that reading leads to understanding first, then buying.
Jabr explicates further:
“When reading on screens, people seem less inclined to engage in what psychologists call metacognitive learning regulation—strategies such as setting specific goals, rereading difficult sections and checking how much one has understood along the way.”
Essentially, don’t make buying a t-shirt or a shipping container sound like quantum physics. People read for the purpose of learning, entertaining, or buying. These goals are already set in their minds when they enter your site, don’t try and persuade them to a new goal. Work with the readers’ search terms. And don’t be difficult for the sake of sounding smart.
When studying, enjoying a leisure read, paper and ink may still win out in the age old debate of paper vs digital. Yet, text, Jabr surmises, isn’t the only way to read. Nor is it the only way for a user (or reader) to interact and engage with your brand.
No matter the medium, a reader experience in the digital age must tell a good story well.
Reader’s experience online needs:
- Clarity – The way you tell and share matters.
- Authenticity – Your story must relate to the reader.
- Brevity – Care about the reader’s time and intelligence.
Last but not least, consider this, dear reader: Write a story. Be clear and authentic. Have a conversation with your user as a user, as a reader, as a fellow human, and not simply a customer.