Much has been said about the importance of content, but do you know how to design a post? Discover the techniques that will increase the chances that your articles will be read.
Every morning, I use to read the newspaper on the train while I go to work and, every evening, I glance at my favorite blogs to discover the latest in design, innovation and social networking. In both cases, I don’t have much time, so I take a quick look and only read those articles that seem the most interesting. Despite doing this always, until recently I was not aware that my decision on which articles to read is based on very specific elements.
1. Featured Image
The featured image is the first thing that will catch the eye of our visitors. However, keep this in mind: Adding an image won’t make someone to read our post. It will only make them to see it.
When the titles appearing on the home page of our blog are accompanied by an image, we are adding space between the articles, thus making them easier to read. In general, in order to display our posts sufficiently separated from each other, images should be at least 200×200 pixels.
Once the featured image has attracted the eye of our visitors, their attention will be focused on the title.
To title correctly a post is an art. I recommend visiting the websites of Fast Company, Wired or Mashable to see excellent examples. For my part, I have only one advice: Do not write the definitive title until you have finished writing the article.
If you have managed to get the visitor to look at the image, read the title and feel interested by the introduction, congratulations. You successfully passed the first stage.
Comparatively, designing a title is a much easier task. Just keep in mind the following two things:
- Highlight in bold the titles that appear on the home page to differentiate them from the introductions.
- Try to create titles that don’t exceed 100 characters. In this way, we make sure that they don’t exceed the limit of Twitter, even when they are retweeted.
Titles must be suggestive to draw the attention of our readers, but they must be accompanied by an introduction where we clearly expose the central theme of the article.
Often our articles start with an anecdote or an event that triggers what we will explain below. These elements help us come closer to the reader, but they aren’t an introduction. Isolated, they tell us nothing. In these cases, I recommend adding a traditional introduction of a few lines between the title and the anecdote.
Unless you are Seth Godin or a Zen master, to explain something really useful you’ll need more than five lines.
If in the case of the title, we should not exceed 100 characters, an introduction should be between 150 and 190 characters so that, without being too short, LinkedIn can include it in its entirety.
At university, a classmate asked one of our professors: “How many pages must contain the paper we have to deliver next week?“. And the professor replied, “If you’re a genius, one page will be enough. Otherwise, 10 pages.“
The same applies to the length of a post. The important thing is not how many lines it has, but the content. However, unless you’re Seth Godin or a Zen master, to explain something really useful you’ll need more than five lines.
It’s not that people prefer long posts. Simply, when we see a post that only takes one paragraph we doubt that in those few words we’ll be able to find some wisdom.
5. Highlighted sentence
The highlighted sentence is very common in newspapers and magazines, but little used in blogs (you can find a good example in this 99U article).
The objective of this element is to highlight a sentence especially witty or that sums up pretty well the argument or point of view of the author. It is a real shame that it is so little used, since on newspapers gives very good results.
If the highlighted sentence is striking, funny or interesting enough, visitors will want to read more to know the context in which it appears. Generally, a good sentence is interpreted as a sign that the article as a whole is also interesting.
Subtitles are sentences in bold font that indicate the beginning of a subtopic within the post. They are often preceded by a number or letter, but it’s preferable not to include them if we aren’t enumerating a list of items. At other times, they are just the first sentences of some paragraphs.
Subtitles have a dual function. First, they help to break the monotony of the text. In this case, their goal is similar to that of the featured image. Secondly, if subtitles are chosen appropriately, they can help the reader to gain a clear picture of the topics covered in the article.
The subtitles will be the final element to assess whether it is worth reading our post. From here, the success of our posts only depends on the content.
As you can see, a successful post takes a lot of work. It’s not just simply writing it. You also have to design it.