Hard to read, seems hard to do.

Whichever supporter marketing you’re doing, you’ll want the best results.
Donation rates, event registrations, data submission, surveys, and Gift Aid declarations – if you could boost them all, how much more income would you have?

Test results show that the way supporters perceive calls-to-action and propositions is dramatically affected by how easy they are to read. For maximum cognitive fluency, follow these three steps:

  1. decent font size (12-point minimum)
  2. high contrast
  3. use simple words and sentence structure

This will minimise the perceived effort needed to take the action, and your results will improve. Split tests show how surprisingly significant this is. Here’s a simple experiment that illustrates it pretty powerfully:

Researchers expected that getting people to do an action would depend on how long they thought it would take to complete. Test participants were split into two groups. The first group saw an exercise described in a simple font (Arial), while the second group saw the exact same text presented in a harder to read font (Brush).

The results were astounding. The subjects who read the same instructions in the hard to read font estimated that the action would take nearly twice as long, 15 minutes instead of 8 minutes. Unsurprisingly, the group that thought the exercise would take 8 minutes was significantly more likely to do the action.
Hard to read Hard to do

A similar experiment was conducted with a sushi recipe. Subjects who saw the instructions in Arial estimated that it would take 5.6 minutes, while those who read the directions in Mistral, a more complicated font, expect it to take 9.3 minutes.

Have you seen some astonishingly illegible not-for-profit messages? Perhaps you’ve improved readability and seen the uplift? Please share examples in the comments below!

Whatever you’re asking supporters to do, you’ll be more successful if you describe the action in a simple, easy to read typeface. Why not join me at the Contrast Rebellion? There are some great examples of how to make your online communications clearer and easier for supporters to follow. There are also links to more evidence (for example, against using grey-on-white) in case you need to persuade a designer or brand manager that you need legible text for results.

Contrast Rebellion

You can find full details of the experiment mention above at neurosciencemarketing.com
Get alerts of new results and tips direct to your email


5 responses to “Hard to read, seems hard to do.

  1. As an old time direct mailer I have to agree a hundredfold (and we’ve not even started on the abomination of copy over busy images). But… what’s this? The “Make it Readable” logo written as “MAKE IT READABLE.” ?? And all in a slightly poncy font as well? Mixed case please – none of this hard to read all-in-caps nonsense!

    • Thanks Mike.
      You’re on the money – of course.
      Text disappearing into busy (and same colour!) backgrounds is a pet frustration of mine too.
      Arrr… the Contrast Rebellion. they’re having a bit of fun with the Star Wars collateral (don’t tell Disney!). Totally fair point though. Practice what you preach, hey.
      CAPS ARE MUCH HARDER TO READ, and why would a nice charity want to be seen shouting at people?

  2. You are so right Gary! Well said. I’ve been banging on for years about readability and how ignorant most producers of printed communication are about what makes for easy reading. I’m also of the opinion that for body copy serif type is much easier for older eyes to read than the fashionable but way too regular sans serif faces, though that seems a lost battle. See http://www.sofii.org/sofii/node/324. If it’s response you want rather than looking good from a distance through half-closed eyes, it’ll pay you to study readability.

    • Thanks for your comment Ken.
      And thanks for the link to the post on SOFII – great piece.
      As you say serif boosts comprehension. I’ve seen studies that show serif font text has a 14% (percentage point) higher memory recall over sans-serif. Hey, if you don’t comprehend it well you won’t remember it either! Ought to be equally compelling case for a brand object as to direct response I’d say…

    • Oh, Ken. Just thought…
      Online we know that the opposite happens – sans-serif wins.
      Does anyone know if that’s a reflection of age group using the different channels, or is it to do with the medium itself? Bit of both?

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s