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Police Website Tip: Keeping Your Viewers Engaged

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There's scientific data to back up what I've been saying for the last year regarding the design of law enforcement websites and getting people actually to read them. You need to update your site or design it, for the thumb scroll.

When I look at police department websites, they usually all have the same characteristics; they are from the same, out-of-the-box, mass-produced website template vendor used by so many city government agencies throughout our company. Little to no thought into the viewing characteristics of a department's visitors occurs when designing these types of websites. However, an over-emphasis on how simple they can make it for a department to update their website, then move about their day, goes into the development of these website templates.

Take a look around you the next time you step outside your house. You'll most likely see something that we already know, yet don't pay attention to; everyone's heads are looking down at their devices, and their thumbs are flicking forward as they scroll through whatever it is they're reading. 

A recent survey of 2000 Americans found they spend 42% of their waking time looking at digital devices.

 

The Data 

Some department employees have been tasked to update their department's website with the latest news release. They could care less how effective it is at captioning a reader's attention, which is why a department would be wise to either give this task to someone who has an interest in their department's online efforts, or at least subcontract out with someone who will do it for them.

If the proof is in the survey that people are spending more time on their devices, then your community members should be reading your content - if it's worthy enough of their time, right? Another part of the survey found that 73% of the 2000 people in the study reported being physically tired after being on their devices.

So, you better write your news release in a manner which allows for easy reading, keeps your reader's attention (it's already limited), and lets them move on with their day.

Why Is This Important?

 

To have your department's news releases, event information, or recruiting opportunities read by as many members of your community as possible, it needs momentum.

Momentum occurs when someone shares your message on social media or their website, because it is well written (meaning it didn't take that long and not many brain cells to comprehend it), and was informative. Since the sharing usually involves just a small snippet of the message, called intro text, people will be drawn back to your website to read the news in its entirety. Then the momentum repeats itself with that new reader sharing it as well.

As this endless circle continues, the search engines see the increased traffic to your website and start "pushing" your content to the top of search results. More sharing occurs, and if this frequently happens on all of your content, the search engines will quickly identify your website as a quality, engagement-driven site, which should be seen by more and more people.

A Few Helpful Tips

Try to aim for keeping the reading time of your news releases and other messages to less than three minutes. That isn't too hard to do when it comes to law enforcement publications. To help you accomplish this goal, search for a script timer tool or website, where you'll be able to enter your text, and it will calculate the amount of time it will take the average person to read your content.

Use subheadings as you see in blog articles like this one. Remember how people reported being exhausted after spending time on their devices. If they're already tired, they'll probably skip over your message if it just looks like one giant paragraph. Break it up.

Throw a picture or graphic in your content. It breaks it up, and people process visual content faster than text.

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