books 2 intermediate

Our prospects are often inundated with invitations to download online whitepapers, ebooks, and other text-based marketing offers . And while the content that marketers offer may be educational and helpful, their layout often ruins the reading experience and prevents readers from fully understanding the material. 

A better user experience can improve not only the look of your ebooks, but also help readers develop a better understanding of the educational content you're offering. Yet, for some reason, ebook design often comes as an afterthought and doesn’t get fully incorporated into the ebook writing process. Let's change this, shall we? In this post, we'll explore 5 ways in which you can improve the user experience of your marketing ebooks. 

1) Stick to One Message Per Page 

People need constant reassurance that their time is being well spent as they read your content. Remember: there are a million other things they could be doing instead. To put them at ease and enable them to fully focus on your resources, you need to help them understand what each page is about.

Readers don’t have the time to read through each of your paragraphs, only to realize halfway through that a whole section is addressing a subject that didn’t concern them all that much. Allow readers to skim through sections by including headings or subtitles on every page, making it clear what each chunk of content is about. This will enhance the learning process by making the time they spend reading your content much more efficient.


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In business blogging , for example, we often use formatting to make the reading experience easier. We add bulleted lists and numbered steps; we separate paragraphs visually with images and headers; and we bold and italicize text we want to emphasize. Take that same approach, and apply it to your long-form writing. Include a title on each page, feature a bolded quotation at the top, or highlight some key piece of data. People often don't have time to read the whole page to determine whether the content is worth reading — format your pages in a way that enables them to quickly and easily choose whether they should read something or move on to another section of your ebook that's more relevant or helpful to them.

2) Use Visuals That Enhance the Reader’s Understanding 

Images and graphics in ebooks are hard to get right. The key to making them fit well is to think of them as an inseparable part of your writing. Whether you add them during or after you’ve finished preparing your ebook’s text-based content, your visuals should highlight an important point you’re making or deconstruct the meaning of a concept in an easy-to-understand way. Images shouldn’t just be there to make the ebook easy on the eyes. Rather, they should be used to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material you’re covering. 

For instance, you might want to deconstruct a piece of data by emphasizing some of the keywords with images. Or you might want to illustrate a process step by step by using a diagram. See the screenshot below as an example — it seeks to demonstrate what an email workflow might look like.


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3) Maintain Consistency of Style 

In point one, we touched upon the importance of using formatting in ebooks, and that might have led you to think of incorporating a lot of bullet points, colors, fonts, and other styling elements in your writing. It’s easy to start mixing different styles of formatting in an attempt to create some vibrancy. However, it’s important to resist this temptation and stay consistent with your initial style choice.

If you start using a specific line style, title color, or image frame, stick with it. Failing to do so will only create a chaotic experience for your readers and distract them from the knowledge you’re trying to share with them. By being consistent, your readers’ photographic memory will recognize what certain colors and formatting mean from section to section. You can also leverage this concept by bringing those style elements back time and again to reinforce key points.


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For instance, if throughout your pages you consistently use a rounded blue box with a call-to-action to “learn more” about a specific topic, your readers will learn to anticipate it on the following pages. On the other hand, if you always introduce different shapes and colors, readers won’t make an immediate association of the visual with a message.

4) Embrace White Space 

When I wrote for my college’s newspaper, we often had to fit too many words on too little space. In these cases, we would sometimes increase the margins of the columns and reduce the space between words. One day, an experienced newspaper editor visited us to share some lessons. He saw what we did when we were lacking space in the print edition of our newspaper, and he asked us if we would make the same decision in life — to constantly adjust our standards in order to accommodate one-time needs. He had a great point: that’s not how you achieve high quality . Instead, he advised us to separate or cut the content instead of sacrificing the look and experience of the entire page. Ever since then, I began to cherish white space.

Compare your reaction to a page overflowing with words and one that has just a few, neatly organized columns. The first one is burdensome; the latter inviting. A text-heavy page with no breathing space makes you feel tired even before you start reading. A page that embraces white space and looks clean and simple, on the other hand, welcomes you to explore the content.


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As you’re reviewing your ebooks, consider how you can separate the content or cut back on it so you don’t ever have to sacrifice the look and feel of your ebook template to increase margins or reduce spacing between words.

5) Avoid Jargon 

Jargon, or also known as gobbledygook , makes everything more difficult to understand. We all want to sound intelligent and authoritative in our writing, but using technical language is not the way to achieve it. Instead of trying to use sophisticated language to convey a point, write simply and clearly. That’s the most effective way of educating readers and helping them understand the new material you’re providing. This is should also hold true for all your other marketing efforts, such as email marketing, call-to-action creation, and landing page production. “Clarity trumps persuasion,” as Dr. Flint McGlaughlin of MECLABS often likes to say.

How else do you ensure a positive user experience of your ebooks and other text-based content? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Image Credit: jlz



Originally published Jun 20, 2012 4:30:00 PM, updated July 03 2013


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