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Our coworkers are often not able to read or understand our messages due to the sheer barrage of information already trying to get their attention. There are text messages, emails, document updates and other notifications vying for eyeballs and mindshare.
To be successful in conveying our message, we need to design it in such a way that can grab people’s attention. Marketers are experts in designing words that, based on research and data, make people stop and take action. Their tricks can be applied to our memos, emails, reports and messages so that your teammates actually end up reading them.
The interface designers at Amazon are experts in providing an intuitive, often exciting digital experience. They start with the end goal in mind and ask the following questions:
We can apply these techniques by asking the same questions towards ourselves and our readers.
If we aren’t talking about the important stuff from the word go, people stop paying attention, usually in about 10 seconds.
Newspaper headline stories follow the ‘inverted pyramid’ technique where the most critical information is on the first paragraph. One can organize an article or product interface in such a way that if the reader only reads the first few sentences, the crucial information is still communicated.
Eye-tracking software shows that the brightly coloured, large button often is the most noticed one. We can utilize this trick to showcase the important information in a clear, non-cluttered format, highlighting or formatting it in such a way that the coworkers have no doubt about what is required from them.
It also helps to link the relevant document links and due dates for ready reference, even if those were already communicated earlier.
The more tools, options or details a reader has, the less likely they are to use the same. More stuff only adds clutter and reduces clarity.
As people only read about 20 percent of the words they encounter, it makes sense to get rid of vague, rambling emails and present the reader with short, to the point paragraphs and brief context, with links to longer discussions.
Most of us read in an F pattern over the computer screen or mobile, where we skim information and read less and less as we scroll down the page. Professional writers use eye-catching headers, which are left-oriented and assist the eye ball movement of the reader.
We can use the same technique and structure our writings with headings and subheadings, using meaningful titles that help the reader navigate with ease. We can make use of bullet points and hyperlinks to further draw the reader's attention.
The human brain has only a small amount of short-term memory, with the average brain holding only about seven chunks of information at a time, for about 20 seconds.
One can make use of chunking related items together and using clear headers and sections to enhance clarity. Breaking large paragraphs into smaller chunks of information makes them easy to retain for the reader.
Just like various accessibility features like auto-complete and voice control, initially made for the disabled, are now widely used by all, it is good to provide information in a simple manner (8th-grade level language) to be easily readable.
It also helps to write in an active voice and use short sentences. The ideal tone should be supportive and reassuring, avoiding any irony or sarcasm.
Describing or showing is often better than telling. Visual stories have a high impact value in this attention-deficit age.
One can use visual aids like screenshots(annotated) to get the point across in a clear, informative way. This is helpful while providing step-by-step instructions or offering feedback on specific areas of a product design.
We all see product and service makers ask for ratings, feedback and check-ins in order to improve their service better.
A business writing can also follow the same user-experience feedback process to improvise their content, clarity or tone.
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