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Dumbing it Down? Content Development and Your Readers

It’s pretty common knowledge. Mainstream news is written at a middle school reading level. And for those of us in the content development and website development industries, it’s also common knowledge that website content is meant to be written in easily digestible chunks. Plugins like Yoast not only assess SEO, they judge readability. Start writing long sentences, and you get dinged by Yoast until you simplify. Some consider this “the dumbing down of America.” But is it really? Here are four things we consider when writing website material, blogs, white papers, articles and any other content.

It’s about the readers’ needs.

Readers don’t need stupidity. They need simplicity.

Any good content writer knows that no matter how sophisticated they might be, it’s the audience that matters. Who are the people visiting the site, reading the blogs, requesting white papers? What will appeal to them? Do they need a “translator” to break down technical or industry-specific language? Writers should understand all this before they ever take on an assignment. If that audience has specific needs, such as the use of simple language, short paragraphs and acronyms spelled out, that’s what the content writer needs to produce.

It’s about the readers’ time.

A side order of more hours in the day? Yes, please.

Dumbing it Down? Content Development and Your ReadersMost readers don’t have much time to invest in a single web-page or article. That’s why word economy is so important for content writers to learn. Get the main ideas in. Get the most important details in. Good content writers won’t glaze over the necessities, but they also won’t spend precious words on ideas that don’t communicate what the business or the potential clients – the readers – really care about.

It’s about the readers’ attention span.

Sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.

In the digital world especially, it’s hard to get and keep readers’ attention. There’s just too much information to take in. So writers need to make sure they catch a reader’s eye and hold it as much as possible. Tools like Hotjar and Google Analytics can pinpoint which articles or sections capture more readers. Hotspots, click-throughs and bounce rates are all useful pieces of information. Knowing which blog topics get the most reads, how far down visitors read and how long they spend on a page can help writers plot editorial calendars and refine interesting, thought-provoking topics.

It’s about the reader’s experience.     

Content creation is a visual art.

If you’ve ever gone to a website and have seen long paragraphs, few graphics and even fewer breaks, you might have said “no way” and moved on to the next site. It is imperative that content developers know how to use headings, bullets, numbering and paragraph structure that will attract, not deter, readers. It is also important for writers to have at least a basic understanding of layout. Experienced content developers work in conjunction with web developers to perfect visual presentation and ease of reading through organizing text.

Watch that behavior.

The digital era demands not that content developers assume ignorance or carelessness on the part of readers, but that they acknowledge the age of technology and how it impacts the behavior of potential clients. By understanding these cultural changes, writers can still produce a quality, meaningful product that caters to readers in any industry. Go with writers who have the experience, drive and talent to meet what the market demands. Contact All Things Writing and ask us how we do it.  

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Katherine Gotthardt, CEO

Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, has been writing, editing and teaching for more than twenty years. For the past ten years, she has focused on content development and content marketing for small to mid-size businesses, writing and disseminating material that increases client visibility while supporting their brand. Besides being published in dozens of journals, Katherine has authored eith books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, A Crane Named Steve and Get Happy, Dammit. Learn more about her creative life at