Write for lazy readers (and we’re all lazy)
We have two parts to our brain, proposes Daniel Kahneman; system one and system two*. They both work great together. System one is the lazy part, it recalls information you’ve already taken in and helps you make quick decisions and assumptions. System two is the part we don’t like to use, as it requires us to go a little slower and take our time like learning something new, analysing, or researching.
System one is the part we use when browsing online, right at the start of our journey from searching for something through to taking an action. We like to ‘scan read’ and pick out key content that allows us to make quick assumptions about where to go next or what we need to do.
That’s why professional web-writers go by one rule to rule them all; don’t make the reader think! Following your content should be an easy, quick, and obvious experience and shouldn’t require deeper thought.
So what does this mean for you when putting together your intranet content?
- Make use of headings, bullet points, hyperlinks, and key words. Make these pointers clear so the reader can pick out what they need and make quick decisions about what to do next.
- Bring your most important message, or ‘call to action’, to the top of your page so the reader can find it straight away. Any supporting information or background can come later.
- Consider using images or icons. Icons are everywhere nowadays and help readers jump quickly to the action you want them to take, but beware using novel graphics as not everyone will interpret them the same.
You can find out more about the psychology of reading online by taking part in our Writing for your intranet workshop, and discover loads of tips and tools to help you create the best content for your readers.
*System one and system two is a concept developed by Daniel Kahneman. You can find out more in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.
This is one of a series of short articles about intranet content practices.
Joanne Treverton, our comms and content workshop leader
Previously the award winning intranet manager for the RSPB, Joanne knows the intricacies of online communication and digital content.
With 8+ years’ of experience in copywriting, internal communications, intranet management and digital marketing at Europe’s largest nature conservation charity, the RSPB, Jo finds that the best intranets are based around the users’ needs. Writing, creating, and editing content requires skill and patience to get right, but is something that anyone can learn to improve their online writing.