In his article entitled “Long vs. Short Articles as Content Strategy ”, Jakob Nielsen, a renowned expert in web usability, discusses how web viewers ‘forage’ for information and typically prefer to consume many shorter, scannable articles vs. fewer longer, detailed articles until they have identified the specific information that they require and are ready for more in-depth research.
As an example, if you think of planning a family vacation to Mexico, people are likely to scan through information sources on several different resorts until they find one that seems particularly appealing to them. Then they will drill down into the details of that specific resort, check reviews on TripAdvisor, etc. until they are confident they have picked the right one. Well, at least that’s how we do it in our house…
In his model, Nielsen used a cost/benefit analysis to demonstrate the effectiveness of this foraging strategy, with ‘cost’ being the time required to consume an article and ‘benefit’ being the value of the information consumed. A ‘mixed diet’ of predominantly short articles combined with the occasional long article is shown to deliver the highest value overall. From a real life perspective, Nielsen shares the following insights:
“- Reading benefits vary, depending on user circumstances.
- Most of the time, short articles contain more value per word.
- People sometimes gain higher value from complete or very detailed information about a problem”
As I read the article, I realized that the interactive case studies and white papers we develop for our clients are designed to work within these assumptions quite well.
· For prospects who want a quick, value-packed overview, our use of animated images combined with brief text and intuitive navigation allow them to consume more relevant information in less time than comparable print content.
· If and when they’re ready for greater detail, callout boxes lead to more information on each section’s topic, making it easy for them to zero in on the details that they want and avoid lengthy content that is of little value to them.
What I took away from Nielsen’s article is the importance of taking a “maximum value/time” approach to meeting the informational needs of prospects who are both ‘scanners’ and ‘researchers’. Developing content that serves each of them well, within their different time constraints, is definitely a concept worthy of every B2B marketer’s consideration.