May 012012

eLearning Design: How to Create Online Content That Gets Attention Using Human Psychology 

elearning Design: Posted by Dr. Marina Kostina, Monday, April 30, 2012

Writing for web-based courses is DIFFERENT than writing for traditional courses. Therefore, in order to get your students’ and trainees’ attention online, you need to forget everything you have learned about how to be an effective writer.

You need to understand the psychology of online readers and adjust your writing accordingly.

This post provides you with practical strategies on how to create online content that gets read. It is based on eye movement and other research in psychology and distance learning.

In order to create content that “sticks,” you need to utilize these 7 strategies:

1. Make it positive

This statement seems counter-intuitive since we’re used to seeing negative news everywhere. Negativity does attract attention. However, research shows that it does not sustain attention as long as positive messages. So, make your content uplifting.

2. Make it emotional

Content that arouses strong emotions (positive or negative) gets more attention that content without emotions. When you write a post, think of how you can provoke fascination, anger, anxiety, awe, etc. in your readers and you will get their attention!

3. Break it into small chunks

How much do people read online? They don’t! Or they almost don’t… Research shows that people read less than 20% (!) of all written materials online. I know, this sounds harsh. So how can you ensure that the most important information gets noticed?

Start with the most important things first. Break your longer paragraphs into smaller chunks. (I know this goes against your academic upbringing, but wouldn’t you rather your content be remembered?)

4. Use your titles and subtitles wisely

Research shows that readers pay attention to the first 11 characters of your title and make a decision whether to continue reading your post or not. Make sure your titles contain the most important information, allowing readers to predict what the article/content is going to provide… and of course, make these titles and headlines intriguing so they read it.

5. Create an illusion of simplicity

Research shows that readers believe that it takes them longer to read wide lines of text. In reality, however, they read wide lines of text faster than the short ones. In order to create the illusion of simplicity while accounting for the actual reading speed, start your articles with narrow lines (you can include a picture either on the right or the left of your text, or insert a drop cap). After 4-5 short lines, make your text gradually wider. Just as in this example.

6. Create content that is practical and useful.

Make sure that you can identify the goals of your article or your post in simple sentences. Provide your readers with the outcomes of your content right away so they can look forward to reading the entire story and so they feel that it is worth their time.

7. Utilize lists and bulleted items for main points of your article.

Research shows that compared to the rest of the content, lists are almost always read in full. Use this knowledge to highlight most crucial information that you want your students and trainees to remember.

If you use just these 7 strategies your content will get much more attention online!


In the comments below list 1 strategy that you use for developing content that gets attention of your students and trainees online:

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Tom McDonald,; 608-788-5144; Skype: tsmw5752

elearning design, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC