How your audience approaches print versus digital content

Gain a competitive edge in your marketing by understanding how people experience reading print differently to digital content.

As a digital agency you might confidently assume we have no need of such old fashioned items like printers and live our lives entirely online. Nothing however, could be further from the truth and we can often be found printing things off to check and cross reference with what we’re doing on screen.

Are you the same, do you find yourself preferring to print off long documents and mark them up with highlighters rather than scroll through them on your laptop? If so, have you ever wondered why?

Knowing how people process information is vital for us as a design agency, without this knowledge we wouldn’t be able to advise our clients as to how best to present their message and achieve the effect they’re after.

Knowing the science behind how we approach and process information in different formats is just as important in graphic design as creating beautiful artwork.

Here we break down how your brain absorbs information presented on a screen differently to how it absorbs information read on paper, so you can better understand how to share information with your clients and customers.

For information read in print a key factor is the physical experience. This is why, despite the convenience of e-readers many people still prefer reading a book in print – they prefer the sensory experience of how the book actually feels.

And it appears this physical experience affects your emotional experience, with people becoming more involved in a story read on paper than when read on a screen according to one study.

So yes, we get printing costs can result in a sharp intake of breath, but investing in quality material so your customers can literally feel the investment you’ve made will reap rewards.

Now, when it comes to reading what’s on a screen the experience is different in several key ways.

First, there’s how screens work. Screens emit light which can cause eye strain, especially for extended periods of reading. This is an important factor to be aware of when presenting information, particularly complex data. The more mental resource it takes someone to absorb what you’re setting out, the quicker they’ll move on, or the more they’ll forget from what they’ve read.

Another key difference is in how things are set out on screen. On a screen, you’re generally presented with a more fragmented experience, with associated but different content on the same screen as what you’re reading. You’ve then also got the distraction of pop ups and audio alerts from other applications. This can make it harder to understand what’s written and to retain it, as you’re continually shifting your attention and working memory to different parts of the text. This makes it important to think through your side bars and calls to action carefully.

And when it comes to shifting attention research has found the mere act of having to scroll down the page when reading online can make it harder to process what’s been written. It’s therefore key to think about how the page is broken up, just as it it’s vital to think through the information flow when setting information out in your printed materials.

Understanding how people approach what they read in print versus what they read on a screen is important for creating effective and accessible digital content that can be easily processed.

To speak to our graphic designers about how best to present your information…. Get in touch today.