A couple of posts ago I promised more about how people read different kinds of document. Here it is!

On screen people scan in an F shape with the top bar of the F starting about 2/5 of the way down the screen. On paper the scan pattern changes, depending on the document.

On a flat piece of paper most people scan in a Z pattern. This means that they get the headline, then their eyes run diagonally from top right to low on the left hand side. Anything on the right hand side is pretty much ignored and, to get attention on the left you’ll need to use devices such as subheaders and bullet point lists. Contact details across the bottom or in the bottom right corner work well. Bear in mind that a low percentage of people actually turn an A4/letter size sheet over – so think carefully whether you need a message on the back!

A trifold – an A4/letter sized sheet folded in on both sides to a standard envelope sized document. This is where you can use both sides very effectively, if you get the information in the right places. This is what needs to go where:

  • Front: Your brand, of course, but, bigger than anything else and in a prominent central position, you need to have a reason for opening it. What will I learn/discover/benefit from?
  • The first fold in that appears when you open it: A small number (no more than 5) bullet points in fairly large font size. Most people don’t hang about here, they glance at this and move on.
  • Central section inside: This is where people are looking when they get it open – because they usually hold it with their thumbs in the folds and the sides angled up. This is where your key message needs to go – keep it short and simple.
  • Left hand page inside: Supporting information about your key message.
  • Right hand page inside: Your credibility statements, one or two testimonials, list of services.
  • Centre back: Contact details, guarantees, terms or other administrative information – don’t crowd too much information in unless it’s essential.
  • A postcard is a small area so don’t stuff it with information, however, use the front for attracting attention – a bright visual and a strong bold headline. The back can carry a few ‘what you get’ bullets and your contact information with a strong call to action, people do turn postcards over as we’re conditioned to expect a message on the reverse.

    There are many more documents – the secret of success is to watch people handling them and see where they stop and read – then use that information to put your key messages in the right places.
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