Captivating writing is the white shirt in your content wardrobe. Even alone, it stands strong to the tallest expectations of your readers — and can further complete your get-up when paired with a powerful headline, riveting storytelling, Search Engine Optimizations(SEO), smooth User Interface(UI), and moving imagery.
However, where writing and powerful writing frameworks reach their ceilings, there is one indispensable area that can still help you 1-up your content game.
Here are 3 laws of User Experience(UX) to keep in mind when writing your next blog piece:
01. Miller’s Law
Miller’s Law posits that the average person can only keep 7 (± 2) items in their working memory.
Miller’s Law was formulated by George Miller, a professor in the field of Cognitive Science. Miller demonstrated that an individual can recall no more than about 7 randomly ordered chunks.
Note that the law talks about working memory, and not long-term memory. This is crucial to keep in mind when implementing Miller’s Law in your content pieces.
How to leverage Miller’s Law in writing
Messaging and storytelling is the backbone of all writing efforts. Writers that understand Miller’s Law can better structure, architect, and present the information to their readers.
When clustering different pieces of information, you should follow Miller’s law to divide and organize information into smaller chunks for ease of processing. The faster and easier it is for the buyer to understand the underlying marketing / content message, the easier it is for them to remain engaged and scroll down further to consume the remaining content.
Miller’s law also helps understand how recipients recall content. The ability to retrieve the information correctly is critical not only for the reader to map the flow of information presented, but also to connect varied sections in the blog.
2 areas to implement Miller’s Law
→ Listicles: Blog pieces such as ‘Trends’, ‘Features’, ‘Benefits’ attract significant readership. Utilizing Miller’s Law means you will be presenting your information across 5,7, or 9 points.
For eg: ‘7 health benefits of cold showers’ OR ‘9 features of Obsidian that makes it the ultimate PKM tool’.
→ Video Content Repurposing: Video scripts are critical for presenting information in an educating manner without compromising how engaging that content is. However, the bottom line of any video content is still tied to whether or not the viewer will remember that content.
When repurposing your video content into an article, chunk your content in 7 (±2) points.
If you are running a video based course, setting up the course in 7 (±) 2 modules helps optimally categorize content and further, you can break down the information in 5,7, or 9 lessons.
02. Serial Position Effect
Serial Position Effect proposes that users have a propensity to best remember the first and last items in a series. The term was coined by Hermann Ebbinghaus.
2 psychological triggers make up the Serial Position Effect curve:
- Primacy effect: The phenomenon where earlier actions have a greater importance because they influence what comes next.
- Recency effect: Incidents happened recently are more relevant because they are the most accurate representation of “now.”
Across a wide variety of tasks involving learning, memory or rating of individual items, the first (primacy) and/or the last (recency) items are privileged in performance compared to the middle positions (Crowder).
One thing to also account for are the distractor tasks.
Variable interstimulus intervals may affect both the strength of priming and interfere with serial position effects, in particular the recency effect (Raanaas and Magnussen).
Focus on the ‘in a series’ at the end of the Serial Position Effect statement. This can be an often overlooked component of implementing the Serial Positing Effect in your content piece.
How to leverage Serial Position Effect in writing
Content recall of valuable information is essential to structuring an article the right way. Writers can better position pointers, messages, and takeaways by leveraging and keeping in mind the Serial Position Effect.
Place the most important information at the beginning of the content piece to fully leverage the primacy effect, accounting for delay/disruption, if any. Try not to place elements that break immersion around key takeaways of your piece.
Position the least important bits of information in the middle and valuable bits at the beginning or the end to leverage short-term memory and long-term memory pathways of the brain.
If a soft Call-to-Action(CTA) is asking the reader to take an immediate action, place the most important piece of information closest to that CTA.
Place stats and main takeaways to the far left (for e.g.: at the start of a para) or extreme right (for e.g.: at the close of a para) to impress upon the reader with said takeaway. This also plays well with how readers scan content.
2 areas to implement Serial Position Effect
→ Report Findings: Listicles that cover results from a survey, findings of a report or showcase trends for an upcoming cycle can be structured well by having valuable information placed in the beginning or at the end of a series to aid the reader remember them.
→ Product Features: if your blog piece goes over the latest product features or a changelog, highlight the most relevant/most impactful (business-wise) at the start or at the end of the series.
03. Goal-Gradient Effect
As applied to rewards or loyalty programs, consumers with endowed progress were shown to have a higher likelihood of reward redemption compared to those not endowed, and they completed the reward task more quickly than the non-endowed.
For e.g.: In the Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: researchers noted that participants of a café reward program purchase coffee more frequently the closer they are earning a free coffee. A stronger tendency to accelerate toward the goal predicts greater retention and faster re-engagement in the program.
How to leverage Goal-Gradient Effect in writing
Disseminating information to an audience is not done into a void — there is a goal connected to it. Be it educating, addressing pain-points, or answering a customer support tickets, businesses look to add a Call-to-Action(CTA) to help the reader along various touchpoints in the marketing funnel.
Writers who understand goal-gradient effect can help their readers take immediate action.
Using the slippery slope writing framework, you can help the reader move along the content smoothly. Word embeds like ‘that’s not all’, ‘there’s more’, are placed with a goal in mind: to help the reader read the text that follows. As the placement is as close to the desired action as possible, your reader will have the tendency to read further.
Similarly, if you have multiple sections in a blog piece and your goal is to move the reader from the current piece to a MOFU piece, placing an image or video based CTA somewhere along the content can help bring front and center the next piece of content that might pique your reader's interest — ensuring proximity to an interested reader’s next task/goal.
2 areas to implement goal-gradient effect
→ Pillar Pages: If you have a content hub, or a pillar page, leverage goal-gradient effect to place slippery slope connectors and thread together multiple sections of the same piece together and help the reader take the desired action of reaching to the end of the page.
→ Blog Pages: For any and every blog, embed the estimated time it will take the reader to complete the content piece. Medium does that well. In my ‘For you’ page, here are 3 articles that I am interested in reading up on.
The article from Turumburum is 8 minutes long, so I have added it to my reading list and will pick it up when I have more bandwidth and space to read longer articles.
At the same time, the pieces from Emily McDermott and Christopher Grant are shorter reads and I can opt to read them immediately. If the time indicator was not available, I would have opened Turumburum’s post, realized that it is a bit too long for me to read at the moment and left it midway.
Similarly, when writing listicles, number your points, not bullet them. A lot of content pieces, especially on Medium, have a ‘# tips for…..’ headline but do not use numbering when disseminating the information. When the reader is going through those content pieces, they are not utilizing their working memory to remember which pointer number of the total they are reading currently and may leave soon after.
Bonus: White papers: If you have a white paper that you’d like your reader to go through, a good idea would be to display pages as ‘1 of 10’, ‘7 of 10’ to show progress along the content and that can help provide the necessary motivation to your readers to pull through and complete the white paper.
The goal for content writing and content marketing is broader than just distribution of information or education of the reader. Using the goal-first approach, understand the desired action of the reader and then understand how to help the reader achieve that outcome.
At times, it maybe achieved by better writing or better SEO efforts, but add these 3 laws of User Experience to your arsenal and help your content piece perform better.