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Master the art of creating skimmable content

Capturing and maintaining readers’ attention spans has become a hefty challenge for content creators. The best way to achieve this? By crafting skimmable content. This approach makes it easy for readers to grasp the essence of your content quickly and, if intrigued, explore deeper into the text.

TL;DR

Issue: 

Retaining readers in an age of short attention spans.

Content Principles:

  • Respect the readers’ time.
  • Use visual cues and structure for clarity.
  • Emphasize brevity and engaging narratives.
  • Opt for relevant images, user-friendly charts, and organized lists.
  • Use clear headings, concise CTAs, and short paragraphs.
  • Balance quick skimming with in-depth reading.

Reason: 

Achieving skimmable, in-depth content is crucial for modern readership loyalty. 

It’s important that readers can quickly scan through the material, picking up key points without having to read every word. This is achieved through a combination of visual elements, well-structured text, and simple formatting rules.

When your content is easy to read and scannable, users can easily decide whether to invest more of their time instead of bouncing back to a different search result. Read on for a few tips on how to create skimmable and visually appealing content that keeps your audience with you, even when writing long-form content.

Skimmable content vs. the average human attention span

Social media apps like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Reddit are designed to be addictive, and we’d be lying if we said we hadn’t lost an entire day (or 10) scrolling through them ourselves.

The vast majority of us now seemingly want quick, easily digestible paragraphs and content that can be consumed in a few minutes or less. And research shows we start skim-reading from the get-go. Don’t believe us? Here are the facts:

 

55% of page views are less than 15 seconds in duration which is why creating skimmable content is very important

So, how can we create engaging content that captures people’s attention and encourages them to stick around—preferably for more than a few seconds?

The average blog post length

Top-performing blog posts generally stand around 1,500-2,500 words, and with today’s attention spans, readers can give up at any given moment if distracted by something else. You needn’t be afraid of posting a long-form article; however, as long as you get the content scannable, you won’t lose readers. But don’t wander and waffle in the body of the blog posts—because a succinct point can speak a thousand words.

Understanding skimmable content

Modern readers, faced with a deluge of online resources, often find themselves racing through content to ascertain its relevance and value quickly. With so much content available online, how can you ensure your company can write the last word? Reader-friendly content caters to this behavior by facilitating a swift capture of the material’s essence without demanding a meticulous read-through. Let’s explore the facets that go into crafting material that gets readers paying attention:

The underpinning principle

The core principle behind engaging content lies in respect for readers’ time and attention. It’s about delivering value promptly, enabling readers to swiftly gauge the content’s relevance to their interests or needs. The quicker they can do this, the better the user experience, making them more likely to return for future reads.

The visual cue factor

Humans are inherently visual creatures. Our eyes are drawn to images, shapes, and colors. Therefore, visual cues play a significant role in guiding readers’ journey through the text. Images ease the intensity of words and function as speed breakers, making content aesthetically pleasing and serving as landmarks for important points within the text.

Structured clarity

Put simply, format matters. A straightforward, logical structure is the backbone of skimmable content; it’s a synergy of what you say and how you present it. Proper use of headings, subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists paves the way for a seamless skim-reading experience. Each section should have a clear focus and contribute to a larger narrative. 

Brevity with impact

Scannable content emphasizes brevity without sacrificing substance. Every sentence should serve a purpose, whether it’s conveying a key takeaway, providing evidence, or transitioning to the next idea, all set within punchy paragraphs and snackable content.

There’s a fine art to being concise yet impactful, which is a hallmark of skimmable content. Remember, you can still deliver long-form content and valuable insights when keeping sentences short—it’s all about the delivery.

Engaging narrative

Even while being brief and structured, the process of making content skimmable shouldn’t lose sight of an engaging narrative. The tone and style should invite readers in, making even a skim read a rewarding experience. As well as offering an interesting headline, don’t underestimate the power of the first sentence—a captivating one encourages the reader to dig further.

The transition to detailed engagement

Skimmable content acts as a doorway to deeper engagement. Once readers find the skimmable bits relevant or intriguing, they are more likely to invest additional time for close reading. This transition from skimming to reading is the ultimate goal, fulfilling the diverse reading behaviors of your audience.

Incorporating visual elements

Creating skimmable content requires a balanced infusion of visual elements that complement the text. Engaging images not only mitigate boredom but also provide a quick snapshot of the information, aiding in quicker comprehension and retention.

Images

Images are a powerful tool to split text and provide visual relief. They can instantly communicate complex ideas that might take paragraphs to explain. Still, their use needs to be strategic and purposeful to avoid visual monotony.

Relevance: Images should be directly related to the content. They should illustrate a point, explain a concept, or provide a visual break in a way that enhances readers’ understanding.

Quality: High-resolution images are non-negotiable. They reflect a sense of professionalism and care toward the content.

Captions: Captions are crucial, as they provide context to the image. A good caption can help convey the message of the image quickly and effectively.

Charts and graphs

An image of Beautiful.AI demonstrating 400% growth using a graph
Source: beautiful.ai

Charts and graphs are excellent for presenting data in a digestible manner. They can make complex statistics and trends easily understandable at a glance.

Simplicity: A simple, clean design ensures that the chart or graph communicates the data clearly and effectively without overwhelming readers.

Labels: Every chart or graph should have apparent labels. The axes, data points, and legends must be labeled to provide a reference point for the readers.

Color: Using color can help differentiate data sets and highlight important aspects of the data presented.

Bullet points and numbered lists

Lists are a fantastic tool to organize complex ideas into digestible bits, making processing information far easier.

Clarity: Lists should be uncomplicated and to the point, distilling down complex ideas into easily understandable points.

Order: Numbered lists work well for sequential information or steps, guiding the readers through the content in a logical manner.

Incorporating these visual elements strategically within your content can significantly enhance its skimmability. It’s about creating a visual hierarchy that guides the readers’ eyes through the content, allowing them to capture the gist quickly.

Structuring text effectively

Text needs to be structured in a way that promotes easy scanning while retaining a coherent narrative. Let’s explore the various strategies to write articles that achieve effective text structuring:

Writing clear headings and subheadings

Each heading and subheading creates the roadmap to your content. Headings and subheadings organize the text into digestible sections, each with a primary focus. Doing so makes it easier for readers to scan through the entire article and find the information they need without giving up because it’s too long-winded.

Hierarchy: Establishing a logical hierarchy with easy-to-read headings and subheadings will help guide readers through your content. It provides a visual structure that breaks down topics and sub-topics, making the text easier to skim.

Keywords: Incorporating relevant keywords in your headings and subheadings not only aids in SEO optimization but also gives readers a clear idea of the content in each section. It helps set the right expectations for what the following text will cover.

The CTA: Not just a catchy saying

Make all calls to action punchy without getting overly creative. It should be clear what pressing that button will help the reader accomplish.

Short paragraphs

Short paragraphs are preferred over dense, lengthy ones. They provide ample white space, which is easier on the eyes and makes the text appear less daunting. Fill your article with long, boring paragraphs, and you’ll lose readers quickly.

Length: Aim for paragraphs that are three to four sentences long. This length is enough to convey a single idea effectively.

Transition: Ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs to maintain a logical flow of ideas, making it easier for readers to enjoy a quick article skim.

Highlighting keywords and points

Highlight important words and phrases to direct readers’ attention to the most essential pieces of information.

Bold text: Using bold text helps vital information stand out. It guides readers’ eyes to the essential parts of the content. However, use bold sparingly so it doesn’t lose its impact.

Quotes: Pull quotes are effective in drawing attention to significant statements or findings. They break the text and provide a visual and contextual highlight.

Why you should create easily skimmable content

There are several benefits to creating a well-crafted piece of online content. It facilitates a reader-friendly experience and offers the core messages at a glance, allowing readers to grasp the essence and value of the content quickly.

Even better, decipherable content acts as a trust-builder. When readers can easily find the relevant articles they seek, it builds appreciation for the content provider, laying the foundation for a loyal following.

The balance between skimmability and depth

Striking the right balance between skimmability and depth can often feel like treading a fine line. While skimmability addresses the readers’ immediate needs and time constraints, depth caters to those seeking a thorough understanding of the subject matter. Achieving a harmonious blend of the two is a hallmark of well-rounded, engaging content.

Depth doesn’t have to be sacrificed to improve skimmability. Instead, detailed explanations, examples, and data can follow the skimmable elements, offering readers a path to dive deeper at their own pace. This layered approach caters to a broad spectrum of readers, from those seeking quick answers to those desiring a comprehensive understanding.

Offering additional resources, such as links to related articles, a press release, downloadable resources, or references, allows interested readers to explore the topic further. This way, the writing remains clean, clear, and educational while providing avenues for further exploration.

In essence, the synergy between making content skimmable and allowing for depth and thorough analysis enriches the content, making it versatile and reader-centric. It’s about creating a structured, visually appealing facade that invites readers in and then offers them a richness of information that encourages them to stay, explore, and derive value through your words.

Final thoughts

Mastering the art of readable content is essential for modern content creators. Get the most critical points across correctly through visuals and words, and you’ve taken the first step toward building a loyal readership that values the quality and accessibility of your content. 

Wordbrew can help you achieve that goal with our hybrid content platform. Get in touch today to find out how we can transform your reach with the power of words. 

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