Reverse Design Tip 5: Reading order

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5: Reading order

In marketing materials, there is little time to get our point across to potential customers (Go on, impress me! You’ve got 3 seconds).

This means that you should prioritise your content to ensure that your audiences see the most important pieces of information first. Simple enough? Yes, but too often small businesses obscure clear message delivery on their marketing materials by complicating the design. Usually, too much content or clutter is the problem. Whether it’s a website home page or a simple leaflet, I often think: ‘what do I look at first? or ‘What’s the most important thing I need to know or remember? This is the reading order.

So, how can you quickly achieve clearer communication in your marketing materials? Here’s a brief checklist:

  • Content: decide the one or two points that people absolutely must remember and make sure that no other content obscures them
  • In layouts, us space as your friend, to isolate and focus the eye on important content
  • Use colour only where it’s really needed
  • Make use of relative size, scale and weight to give content more or less importance

Once you’ve done this, ask someone (who has not seen the development of the work) to give you an honest and dispassionate opinion of the piece or suite of materials. Ask them what they notice first, second and third. If it communicates well to them, you’ll know that you’re on the right track.

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Reverse Design Tip is an occasional series of short blog posts on improving design and marketing communications. It is aimed at SMEs, graphic design students and marketing professionals – anyone interested in making communications work better and look good.