How to Catch and Keep Your Reader’s Attention with Visually Appealing Content

By John Bertino

You’ve heard this one before:

“A tree falls in the woods but no one is there to hear it. Does it make a sound?”

How about this one:

“Your blog post is genius but everyone is bored to tears by it. Does it make an impact?”

Hey, it’s not your fault that so many Americans have short attention spans. In fact the average American has an 8 second attention span – one second shorter than a goldfish!

…Still with me???

Look, the availability and accessibility of infromation in today’s cluttered media world has created an environment where we are all over-exposed to knowledge and noise. As a result, our attention is at a premium. Anything that doesn’t fully capture our attention in the first few seconds—and then works hard to keep it—typically gets dismissed.

So what do you do about it?

Beyond just focusing on creating compelling subject matter, there are things we can do with our content to help make it more visually appealing and therefore more captivating. Research shows that when the following aesthetic appeal is applied to our content we can keep a reader’s attention longer. Here is a list of tactics to catch and keep your reader’s attention with visually appealing content.

Organize Information

Bulleted Lists

Not only do people tend to prefer information organized into a concise bulleted list but people tend to skim content before they actually commit to reading it in the first place.

Bulleted lists are a great way to:

  • Snag a reader’s attention
  • Convince the reader that your article is worth the investment
  • Help them understand your points quickly
Separate Content with Subheadings

Similar to the point above, subheadings are a good way to get someone skimming your article to stop and invest. When information is organized into a continuous list of paragraphs, we tend to start scanning an article to look for the good part. Subheadings will help the reader know what each section is about in just a glance. Subheadings also help to simply break the content apart and create white space

Create Contrast

Take Advantage of White Space

That little diddy your high school grammar teacher told you about needing at least 3 sentences to make a complete paragraph… yeah, you can throw that out the window.  Most people that are going to see your content aren’t grammar teachers, and people tend to like short concise points and paragraphs regardless of it’s a full paragraph or not. Also, white space helps to give the eyes a rest and break apart an otherwise cluttered piece of content. It’s even on our list of 9 Must-Haves for User-Friendly Web Design!

Utilize Bolding and Italics

Bolding and italicizing are just two more ways to catch a reader’s attention.  Contrast breaks monotony and therefore helps to keep the reader more interested and engaged.

Experiment with Font Color and Size

Same idea here.  Experimenting with color and mixing up font size can help to mix things up and also create another layer of visual appeal.  Just be sure not to get carried away and be sure to use colors consistent with your branding.

Add Visual Appeal

Graphics and Charts

Approximately 65% of the population is a visual learner. Not only do graphics and charts make great eye candy that keep a reader’s attention, but they can often be a more efficient way to prove a point. They also inherently create contrast which we already discussed as being important.

Pull Quotes

They call em’ pull quotes because the goal is to choose a quote that will pull the reader into your text.  Choose a short snippet of text that is thought provoking, enticing and touches on only a single thought or theme.

Cite Experts and Use Data for Credibility

Readers Love Statistics

Statistics give the reader actionable data helping them to truly measure the impact of what is being stated. Statistics help to reign in a passive reader by giving them something of significance to take away from your post.

Link Out

It’s been said that embedding outbound links to related content can also help add value to your content and keep the reader interested. However, tread lightly. This essentially guarantees an increase in the chances that your readers will leave your site to find information elsewhere.

Of course being controversial and/or funny typically helps to increase readership as well. However, this dove tails into a related but different discussion about how to create compelling content.

So what does this visually appealing content look like? Not surprisingly, Mashable does a great job of following these guidelines.

So there you have it, 9 tactics for catching and keeping your reader’s attention. If you made it this far, I’ve successfully kept things interesting! Have you experimented with any of these principles, or do you have some of your own to share? If so, please sound off in the comments.

Stay tuned for next week’s post on premium content beyond infographics!

Share with Your Colleagues:
  • Great article on creating visually compelling blog posts. Is there a program or widget for pull quotes?