Why and how you should vary formatting for your online content

The user experience is a crucial aspect of landing your message and keeping your audience coming back for more. Here are variations to attract a wider range of readers.

Content creation isn’t just about formulating the right words and cadence to capture your audience’s attention.

It’s about formatting your content and setting expectations for what your audience is about to read.

Many outlets give you the number of minutes it takes to read an article, which we’ve included below, but we found a few other format and design features that enhance the user experience.

Choose your adventure

The Christian Science Monitor has a toggle feature just under the headline that offers readers two versions of the article. By default, “Deep Read” is selected, and there will be a minute count to help you make your decision on whether to toggle to “Quick Read.” The quick read isn’t just the first paragraph or bullet points; it’s the abstract version of the full article.

Category: Long read

When you’re at a short-form outlet (such as Buzzfeed), it’s important to set expectations with your reader when they see the headline. They may be expecting that they are clicking on a “listicle” article but instead get a 2,000-word article. Lots of outlets set the expectation of long-form content, including Fast Company and The New York Times.

Tweetable takeaways

In the world of TL;DR and tweetable quotes, sometimes you just want to scan an article to get that one golden nugget beyond the headline, rather than read the full thing. We appreciate the highlight feature on Medium that lets you see the portions of that article that have been resonating most with readers.

You are here *

Sometimes we start reading an article only to find the article scrolls and scrolls, and 30 minutes later we’re still reading. Adobe’s blog not only has a minute counter for how long the article will take to read, but there is a progress tracker that shows you exactly where you are in the article.

A digitally immersive experience

Content is the name of the game. Particularly with regard to long-form content and content that lends itself to a plethora of visuals, having interactive content can elevate the user experience. The New York Times is the golden child for this kind of digitally immersive experience. Moving images, video integration, charts and graphics—this is the kind of article you have up on your screen and come back to multiple times to see what you missed.

Casey Prentice is an account manager with the Hodges Partnership. A version of this article originally appeared on the firm’s Gong blog.

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