So you have an audience and an online channel. What do you want to say to your audience? And how are you going to say it online?

A large part of this is knowing more about your audience. What will appeal to them? What turns them off? Knowing what you want to say, and the people you want to say it to, are key to getting your message across.

In this lesson, we’ll take you through the different ways that people take in information. We’ll show you how to use each of these ways online – and why sometimes, it’s good to use more than one of them. You’ll feel more able to simplify and land complex messages in a way that works for your audience.


  • Understand the importance of knowing your users
  • Cater to your audience’s communication preferences
  • Tell your story in a way everyone can understand

Read time:

10 mins

Chapter 1

Know your users

Read time:

1 min

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Anais Nin

Seeing things through the eyes of your audience

To grab – and keep – our users’ attention, we need to see through their eyes. That’s why it’s so important to think about your target audience when communicating online.

It doesn’t matter how strong your message may be. If you express it in a way that your users can’t relate to, they won’t even try. For example, look at this photo.

Think about your experience of the photo

  • How does it make you feel – Happy, sad or indifferent?
  • Does it remind you of past times or make you long for new experiences?
  • If this was part of an online story, would you want to find out more?

Now think about your audience

Do you think this would appeal to them? Would words or graphics better convey the meaning? Would a video work better for them?

Always be mindful that everyone experiences the world differently. So, you should always consider the ways people can interpret your communications.

Chapter 2

How people like to get information

Read time:

4 mins

What do they look at?

Skimming through a web page, what stands out? Let’s think about the different types of visual content.


Paragraphs, bullet points or key words and phrases


Photos, icons or artwork


Charts, graphs and infographics


People who like to read text will be taking the time to see and interpret each word and phrase. Then they’ll reflect and process that content. So think about the words you use, and how others might interpret them. Text that is clear and easy to read will keep them with you.

Mix up the formats, so no one faces a ‘wall’ of text. Use bullet points or numbered lists if that makes sense for your story. Add quotes from happy clients. Ask questions and invite replies. Those who like reading often enjoy being able to write back. And that can start some good conversations.


There will also be users who prefer pictures to text. They might find reading hard, or get put off by lots of words. And sometimes, a well-chosen image will get your message across faster than a paragraph of text.

You could use photos to show examples of your products. Or icons to convey the different services you give. Maybe some illustrations would draw your audience in as you tell them what your organisation does. The important thing here is to decide on a format and stick to it.

Flipping from photos to artwork then back again might confuse your users. It can also look messy. So try to stay to one style that represents your brand best.


Some of your users get all they need from charts and graphs. They might want to focus on the facts or the numbers. Or maybe they like the order and sequence of a structured diagram. A nice clear infographic could help them make sense of what you have to say.

Of course, this does all depend on the content itself. Think about what you’re trying to say. Can you explain this in a diagram? Highlight growth or success with a graph? Would an infographic show the different services you offer? This won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth exploring.


What do they listen to?



An interview, discussion or narrator

Other sounds

To add interest, or make it easier to connect

There’s more to our online experience than the visuals. Hearing a piece of music or listening to a lively debate can really engage our audience. Sounds can stir feelings and bring back memories. They can inspire, excite and draw people into your story.

There are different types of audible content. You might like to narrate your own video, or know someone who would be good at this. There may be a piece of background music that fits with your visuals. Or you could hold discussions or interviews with others, by live streaming or through podcasts.

Who benefits from audio content?

For people with visual impairments, having online content that can be read aloud is often imperative. You need to make sure that your other content like text and pictures can be read aloud by assistive technology.

It’s not just people with impairments that can benefit from audio though. Anyone can prefer audio, for any reason, whether it’s easier to listen while you’re doing other things or it’s easier for you to understand than text.

Help to read aloud

To make sure your website can be read aloud, include ‘alt text’ descriptions of your images in your design.

Take an integrated approach

Most of us enjoy online content in a range of formats.

If you need to influence a small group of users, get to know how they like to absorb information. This can really improve your chances of them connecting with your message.

While you can’t know this sort of information about a wider audience, you can still appeal to most of them through an integrated approach. This means using a mix of the formats we’ve talked about so far. The aim is to create content that appeals to everyone, so no one gets left out.

One way to do this is to use multimedia. This means combining formats – like having videos that include visuals and music or voice. Think YouTube and TikTok. Multimedia can be more powerful than a single format. True, if you go for this option, it is likely to cost more and take a while to build. But it can add quality and make your message more credible.



  • Your audience may want something different – Be aware of your own preferred format and take care not to use just that one
  • Think about the impact of the format you select – Photos, voice or video can add power to your story
  • To reach a wide audience, you may need to use all of these formats

Chapter 3

Mixing it up!

Read time:

3 mins

Why you should mix it up

We’ve learnt that people like to take in information in different ways. And that they may like more than one format. Now we’ll see how using a range of formats can work for your story – and why it’s good to mix things up.


What you’re saying – and how

In the last chapter, we looked who you want to talk to. Now it’s time to think about what you’re going to say to them. Finding the right way to tell your story will depend on what that story is.

Where do you go online for facts or news? Maybe you have a preferred news or reference site. Think about how that site presents this information. How about when you want a bit of online entertainment? What is it about your favourite apps or social feeds that gives you what you need? And if you’re in a hurry to buy online, where do you go, and why?

Thinking about this can help when you’re figuring out what you want your user experience to be. Do you want to share just the key facts? Make it fun? Do you provide a quick and easy way to join, support or buy from you?

Getting the tone right for your content is key. You can help this by picking the right format.

Facts and figures

Use graphs, charts and tables to highlight key points

Photos and artwork

These can convey emotions or what many words can in one image

Videos and graphics

These can share more complex stories in an easy to consume form

Different formats at different times

We sometimes want information in more than one format, especially when we’re making a big decision. Take, for example, buying a house. This is one of the biggest decisions we ever make. There’s a lot of risk and uncertainty.

You wouldn’t buy a house after just seeing pictures, would you? And reading the details about number of bedrooms and room sizes isn’t enough either.

You need different types of information at different times. Let’s take a look.


Looking at photos, reading information, watching videos


Talking to the estate agent to learn more


Going to see the place to get a feel for it

Only once you’ve done all these things are you able to take the next steps – maybe making an offer on your dream place! This is why you need to know how your users like to receive information at each stage of their contact with you.


Where do you users focus?

We’ve talked about when your users connect with you. Now let’s look at where and how they focus their attention.

If you have a mix of content, think about where you place each item on your webpage. What’s the first thing you want your users to see, before they scroll? The content in this top area may make them scroll - or just move elsewhere. So give them something here that makes them want to find out more.

And people usually scan a webpage in the shape of an ‘F’. They look along the top, then down the side, then across the middle. Bear this in mind when you’re arranging all your content.

Chapter 4

Tips for telling your story

Read time:

2 mins

A few words for your audience

Including text or the spoken word? Here’s a few tips to help get your message across.


Select each heading to learn more

  • If you assume your users know what you're talking about, you'll soon lose them if they don't. Just because you understand something, doesn't mean that anyone else does. So steer clear of complex, industry-specific or technical terms. Keep it clear and simple.

  • It's easy to slip into the habit of using acronyms. But your users might not know them, or they might be unsure about what they mean.

    If you do have to use them, always spell them out the first time you use them. Do this even if you're sure your audience know what you mean.

  • We're used to consuming information in small chunks. Think Twitter feeds and 60-second videos.

    So don't include absolutely everything. There's probably a lot you want to say, but bombarding your audience with so much in one hit isn't a good idea. They'll tune out, skim over that post or go elsewhere.

    Remind yourself: what do you want them to think, feel or do? Focus your content on that.

  • Start with an attention-grabbing headline. If it intrigues people, they'll read on. Spark their curiosity. Or make your headline appeal on an emotional level.

    But keep it relevant to your message. While people will scroll if they're interested in the subject, they need to be invested to do this. So make sure you've outlined the key points straight away.

Visual tips for artwork and pics

Using images helps break up your text, gives useful cues for non-readers and is a powerful way to get your message across. Here are some of our best tips for all of your visual elements.

  • Use good quality images – Blurred photos or poor quality artwork looks messy and gives a bad impression
  • Check you have permission – Copyright laws mean it’s down to you to check if you can legally use an online image
  • Ask – Is it right? Is it relevant? Does it add value? If the answer to these is ‘yes’, then it’s the right one

Top image tip

When you search for images, look for ‘Public Domain’ or ‘Creative Commons’ images to avoid copyright issues. And check that commercial use is allowed


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 14th July 2023.