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Making Content Effective, Part Two

Another great way to make content effective is giving the reader something to do.  Using pictures is good–and sometimes that’s all you need–but that doesn’t give them the ability to interact.  Adobe Captivate does.

You can use Captivate to take footage of anything you do in another program.  Once you’re done taking that footage, you can add tons of things to it in order to draw your audience in.  Make sure you don’t go overboard; that will ruin it.  Just adding some audio, however, can make a huge difference.  If you have a PowerPoint presentation you want to improve, you can record it into Captivate and add rollover text, buttons (which take you to another part of the presentation), audio, or anything else.

How does that make for interaction?  If you add audio, you just gave them something to listen to and guide them through your project.  If you added rollover text, you gave them a reason to move their mouses.  If you added a button, you did the same thing (when they click, something happens).  If you want to give your audience little reasons to stick around, Captivate’s your new best friend.

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Categories: Interactivity

Making Content Effective, Part One

I think the first way to make content effective is using an honest tone.  I don’t mean you have to fight to have your own unique voice, but I do mean you need to use conversational speech.  In most of my blog posts, I’ve tried to keep a professional tone using regular speech.  Here’s what that will accomplish: the people reading your content won’t feel like they’re being taught by a robot.  No one wants to read a boring, generic textbook because each sentence is a paragraph long and you could count on one hand the number of common words each sentence uses.  People want to read things they can understand the first time through, and that’s what you offer them with a human voice.

Another big seller for engaging writing is using active voice instead of passive voice.  Take a look at this example:

1.  (Active)  I visited the store and bought some apples.

2.  (Passive)  The store was visited and apples were bought.

Passive voice really seems to generate the boring textbook feeling.  Active voice generates the feeling that someone’s talking to you.  Active voice sells because it makes the reader feel like he’s part of a conversation, and one at his or her level.

Categories: Interactivity

Why Read when You Can Look?

This post is a kind of continuation of the last post.  It deals with manual writing, but it isn’t directed towards writing style.  Instead I’ll be addressing picture usage.

People don’t read anymore; they look.  Even if you were dealing with the same amount of text, your audience will be more drawn to the manual with pictures.  Don’t take this the wrong way–your content still has to be good.  Adding pictures makes it more effective.  Let’s say you’re writing a small section on how to assemble a puzzle.  You’ll probably say something about placing two pieces together and seeing if one edge can fit into another.  We can break that into three steps:

1.  Take two puzzle pieces.

2.  Place them side-by-side.

3.  See if the edges of each piece can fit into each other.

Those steps are still correct, but your audience will understand them much better if you have a simple picture for each step (depicting the action).

Yours,

John R Larsen

Categories: Interactivity