Pass the 1-2-3-4 Test

Put the hot stuff up top

People spend 84% more time above the fold than below it, according to the Nielsen Norman Group.[1]

Pass the 1-2-3-4 Test

Four’s a charm To reach mobile visitors, get the gist of your message across in the first four elements of your webpage.

So don’t blow your top.

To reach mobile web visitors up top, communicate the gist of the message in the first four elements of the webpage:

1. Headline

Tell the story, don’t tell about the story. “Hallmark doubles profit-sharing contribution,” for instance, not “Benefits changes announced.”

And don’t even get me started on label headlines: “Benefits changes” is not a headline.

Before:

Preventing and declaring conflicts of interest

This buries the topic behind 25 characters worth of –inging words. Plus, it’s unclear: Who’s preventing? Who’s declaring?

After:

Conflicts of interest: How do you handle?

This moves the topic to the top and clarifies who’s responsible.

2. Deck.

Deliver a secondary angle for news stories and a summary for benefits and feature stories. Don’t drop this essential element: 95% of webpage visitors look at the deck.

Before: The writer dropped the deck, missing 25% of her chance to get the word out within the top four elements of the story.

After:

Conduct all your business ethically with our new policy

The new deck adds the benefit to the readers and introduces the new policy.

3. Lead

Show, don’t tell. Leads that illustrate the point with concrete material like stories bring the point to life for readers. And they draw 300% more readers and 520% more reading, according to a split test by Alex Turnbull and the Groove HQ.

Before:

Have you ever been in a situation where your personal interests seem to be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee?

I think I’d read 520% more of this if it were 15% more colorful.

After:

Is your brother-in-law bidding on an XYZ contract? Does your husband work for the competition? Is your neighbor applying for a job in your department?

Just a light touch of detail makes this piece more engaging, puts the reader in the story and brings the message to life.

4. Nut graph

Put the story into a nutshell in the second paragraph. Don’t drop the deck: 95% of webpage visitors read the deck, so it’s a key element for communicating to skimmers and other nonreaders in a hurry.

Before:

Situations such as these can touch every aspect of our day-to-day operations, regardless of where we are located or what we do. They can be difficult to identify and it may not always be clear how best to resolve them.

I’m sure this is all true, but it doesn’t define the story and move it forward. I’d consider this background rather than a nut graph.

After:

If so, your personal interests may be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee. Our new conflicts of interest policy can help.

Here, we make the story snappier and get that policy link up among the first four elements.

Now test it.

Now email those first four elements to yourself and test them on your smartphone.

BeforeAfter
Preventing and declaring conflicts of interest

Have you ever been in a situation where your personal interests seem to be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee?

Situations such as these can touch every aspect of our day-to-day operations, regardless of where we are located or what we do. They can be difficult to identify and it may not always be clear how best to resolve them.

Conflicts of interest: How do you handle?
Conduct all your business ethically with our new policy

Is your brother-in-law bidding on an XYZ contract? Does your husband work for the competition? Is your neighbor applying for a job in your department?

If so, your personal interests may be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee. Our new conflicts of interest policy can help.

Can you get the gist of the story from the first four elements? If so, congratulations! You pass the 1-2-3-4 test.

[1] [1] Amy Schade, “The Fold Manifesto: Why the Page Fold Still Matters,” Nielsen Norman Group, Feb. 1, 2015

  • Get to the point faster

    Because web visitors spend 80% of their time above the fold

    Consider the numbers:

    • Web visitors spend 80% of the time above the fold, or on the first screen of a webpage, and just 20% below the fold.
    • Material near the top of a webpage gets 17x the attention of that near the bottom.
    • The average difference in how users treat information above vs. below the fold is 84%.

    Get to the point faster

    But where’s the fold? Content that shows up above the fold on a 30-inch monitor can take as many as five screens on a smartphone.

    Reach readers where their eyes are.

    So how can you reach your readers where their eyes are?

    At Writing for the Web and Mobile — our two-day hands-on web-writing master class on June 12-13 in Chicago — you’ll learn how to:

    • Pass the 1-2-3-4 test to put your message where web visitors' eyes are. Tip: Try this simple test on your smartphone for best results.
    • Make it a mullet — and 4 more steps for writing effective web heads. (No. 5 is the most important thing you can do to improve the ROI of your site.)
    • Optimize webpages for Google and humans with our three-part test. Note: If you're still using SEO tricks you learned in the 'oughts, Google may be penalizing your pages.
    • Don't drop the deck. Learn to make the most of the best-read element on your webpage.
    • Steal headline-writing tips from the BBC — the source of the best news heads on the web, according to Nielsen.

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