- Carefully arrange media within your post to maximize scannable content.
- Depending on your intended audience, do not feel compelled to write lengthy paragraphs.
- Consider how the gestalt effect of human perception affects text length.
- Don’t what a gestalt is? Keep reading to find out!
So what makes a blog post appealing and easily consumable?
Look at the following image from this blog post on CNN.com:
The first thing to notice is the priority that CNN gives to video. CNN.com places the video above any written text, which falls “below the fold” of the browser window.
As the browser window is contracted to a smaller width, the advertisement to the right of the video disappears and the “Story highlights” section gets pushed up just beneath the video:
Both of these responsive adaptations to browser size aim to keep fleeting audience attention. This page has been designed for rapid consumption. In a glimpse, people can grasp the story highlights without having to wade through a thicket of text. Site visitors are encouraged to watch the video, which runs all of 1 minutes and 33 seconds in length. Perhaps most interestingly, as you scroll down the page, notice that the paragraphs themselves are deliberately shortened:
The text in pink above represents content created for hyperconsumption. Sentences are set off from paragraphs entirely—as if they were paragraphs themselves. If you scroll through the article, you’ll notice that this pattern continues. The longest paragraph does not exceed any more than three to five quick sentences. If the browser window is expanded back out again, we notice the same pattern:
It is clear from this exercise that the content creators at CNN.com carefully arranged these sentences for the rapidly scrolling site visitor. This blog is not meant to be mulled over a long period of time, but perused and abandoned. In short, this blog presents text in such a way as to capture the essence of the gestalt effect.
The gestalt effect is nothing more than:
“the capability of our brain to generate whole forms, particularly with respect to the visual recognition of global figures instead of just collections of simpler and unrelated elements (points, lines, curves...)” (Source).
In sum, chunking text in smaller units allows “our brain to generate whole forms.”
We can observe the text at a glance without having to follow a long train of thought.
Designers may talk about the gestalt effect with regard to images, but standalone sentences and extremely short paragraphs (of 3 to 4 sentence) also rely upon the gestalt effect.
This blog post attempted to configure text with gestalts in mind. Are you still reading this? How might have reading this blog post have been different if all of the text was placed in two or three long paragraphs without any images?
While we can consider CNN as an example of how to organize mixed media within a blog post, we should be wary of how a.) the arrangement of media varies based upon industry and b.) the adverse effects of chunking content in this fashion. If you want your audience to meditate deeply on your content, perhaps consider avoiding gestalt or the blog form altogether.
- Herbert Lui’s “5 Content Design Lessons For Brand Publishers” highlights the gestalt principle when he writes, “Grouping together related fields can make it appear as though they are fewer objects, because our brains see groups of objects as one object.”
- Patrick Owing’s Hubspot article “Want to Get Better at Design?” embodies some of the same principles described above: it prioritizes the image at the top of the article and further chunks paragraphs/sentences for rapid consumption.
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