11 Page Design
Mel A. Topf, PhD JD
If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design. -Ralph Speth, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover, qtd in Podmajersky
We spend so much time and effort generating content that will connect with our audience that we may forget about the “look” of our document. Yet how the content appears on the page or on the screen must also be taken into account. When thinking about our audience, we should consider the document’s readability, in other words, how we might guide our readers through the text. We know that transitional devices do this work. Transitions are essential for making a text easier to follow, but they aren’t always sufficient, particularly for many professional genres. Another important way to increase your document’s readability is to keep in mind the visual or page design of your writing. Design elements such as fonts, captions, lists, bullets, and white space are important to readers: they signal organization and highlight important points, allowing the reader to scan the document easily.
Headings are effective ways of revealing structure. Vague headings like Introduction, Results, and Discussion are useful in giving readers a sense of a document’s major sections. Specific headings, however, increase the document’s readability. They can better tell your readers about your position on the topic of a given section. For example, instead of a vague heading like “Recommended Policy,” write one that sums up the section: “Improved Performance under the Recommended Policy.” In addition to being more specific, the revised heading connects to the reader’s interest in the topic.
Another important consideration is the way experienced readers go through a document. Experienced readers tend to scan on first reading to get a sense of the document’s contents. Headings, and the white space they naturally create, make scanning easier. Word processing programs allow you easily to produce levels of headings, so that the headings act as a kind of outline making structure clear. For example:
IMPROVED PERFORMANCE UNDER THE RECOMMENDED POLICY
- EMPLOYEE EFFECTIVENESS
- CONTRACT COMPLIANCE
- BUDGET ALLOCATIONS
- PROJECT QUALITY ASSURANCE
- ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT
Podmajersky, Torrey. Strategic Writing for UX: Drive Engagement, Conversion, and Retention with Every Word. O’Reilly Media, 2019, p. 1.