This is how you write for online readers

At an online academy, as the name suggests, it is important to know how human beings react to online learning. Our previous blog was about mobile learning in an on-the-go culture, this week we are exploring our reading behaviour regarding online design. Whether it is a desktop, tablet, or app, we want to offer the best learning experiences. Neuroscience has come out with more and more insights that can help you design your online learning environment, one of which is how we read online. Tracking the eyes and points of fixation while we are looking at a screen gives us the answers to the following questions:

  • What are our points of attention while reading online?
  • When do we read and when do we scan?
  • How can we encourage users to actually read more of what is on the screen?

8 points of attention to bear in mind while designing your online training:

1.Users pay more attention to the left side

Eye-tracking research finds that users give most of their attention to the left side of the screen: a whopping 80% of their time! This mostly applies to people whose culture has taught them to read and write from left to right. Keep this in mind when creating your design and do not place particularly important information at the right side of the screen.


2. We read slower on a computer screen

Other research finds that users read 25% slower when reading on a screen, which is in comparison to reading on paper. This is due to the fact that reading from a screen is exhausting for our eyes. The solution? Write 50% less. Short texts with short, active sentences, so your users can absorb your content with ease and understand what they are reading.


3. We scan more than we read

We read online texts daily and are used to scan them instead of actually reading every page. We let our eyes glide over the page and read whatever stands out to us or what we are looking for. This is true for 79% of internet users.


Help the users of your e-learning by providing them with a well-arranged screen layout. Use relevant and attractive headlines, write short paragraphs and sentences, get to the point quickly, and use lists and bullet points whenever possible.


4. Big headlines attract attention

Dominante koppen, vooral wanneer ze in de linkerbovenhoek worden geplaatst, trekken de meeste aandacht. Zelfs meer dan afbeeldingen doen. Haal het optimale uit de koppen op elk scherm. Zet ze in om je gebruikers te helpen de inhoud die ze nodig hebben gemakkelijk te vinden. Houd ze relevant, eenvoudig, beknopt en onweerstaanbaar.


5. Most significant content at the top

The order in which you present your material on the screen is crucial for involved users. Their capacity to concentrate and retain information becomes lower in the middle, while it is highest at the beginning and the end of the text. The writing style ‘inverted pyramid’ seems to be a great fit for online readers. Using this style places the most important information at the top of the page, the information that follows is in support of that at the top, and the end contains a short summary of the content.


6. Relevant images improve the online legibility

Dividing information is key for ease of reading, and images are perfect for this. Above all, people process visual information about 60.000 times faster than text. 


To ensure that the image is relevant to the content, you have to carefully select every image that you place on the screen. All images or other graphic element should be there to strengthen the textual content.


7. Whitespace improves the legibility and comprehensibility

Whitespace makes it easier for your users to read and understand the study material. It keeps the texts on the screen accessible and ensures that your users do not get overwhelmed. A few tips for using whitespace effectively:


  • Leave space between images and between paragraphs
  • Use a wide line spacing for any text
  • Group information by using bullet points, text boxes and headlines
  • Use whitespace between headlines and the paragraphs that follow

8. Choose the right font

Last but not least: the font. The font you choose, and its size, influences the way your users process the content. While it is advised to use serif characters on paper, it is the opposite when reading online texts, as they make it less readable. Popular sans-serif fonts are Arial and Verdana. Keep in mind that for reading on screen, fonts should not be smaller than 10 points, preferably a bit bigger.


Curious about the possibilities regarding Hubper’s already existing online training? Check out our Hubper Content page. You will find training that can be custom made for you! And it is especially tailored to the online user.