AH HA! An Easy Way to Get People to Read Your White Paper:

Use Graphics.

Sounds simple – but it’s not easy.  All Graphics are NOT Created Equal

Graphics – especially pictures – are the first thing you see when you look at a page. Photos of people in particular enliven any message.

You might think this means any old picture of a person is okay. Again, something simple can turn against you if not used the right way.

NOTE: Writing a blog post is different from writing a white paper. With a blog post, the graphics are designed to stop eyeballs in their tracks. This is to cut through all the clutter you see every day. Blog post pics want you to stop long enough to read the headline, and then hopefully the first paragraph, etc.  Stock photos – like the one used for this post (which is obviously fake and staged) – are acceptable because they spark interest.

Best practices for blog posts are different than best practices for white papers. Read on for some best practices for white paper graphics.

Touch with Real Pictures

You’ve seen those stock photos with too perfect people having a too perfect time. They trigger your reader’s BS sensor. (Everyone hates those too perfect people with their too perfect lives.) Pictures of people need to be real.

This doesn’t mean you use a random photo just because it’s interesting.

It does mean your pictures move your reader through your white paper. Each picture takes your reader by the arm and helps them pause – for just a moment. Each picture reveals more than what your words say. Each picture spices up your message. Head shots of people you quote. Pics showing customers using your product. Photos explaining before/after scenarios.

Your white paper is like a discussion – it needs to flow. Each page and picture adds information and value to the pages that came before. Photos add to the conversation.

When choosing photos, make sure they sparkle. Use this quick checklist. Ask yourself if your photos do the following:

  • Add to what’s being discussed on the page.
    • Example: Show a picture of a woman using your product, instead of a too-pretty smiling face.
  • Direct Attention. Readers will follow the direction of the eyes from a face in a photo.
    • Example: Place photos so eyes are gazing into the page (not off the page).(Eyes can also look at the reader)
  • Subtle details are shown that answer questions about your product.
  • Open the door so your reader imagines herself using your product.

Besides photos, illustrations, charts, graphs, and other graphical elements are important as well.

Illustrations Make Ideas Concrete

If you don’t have pictures of customers or employees with your product, you can make your ideas more memorable by including illustrations or other graphics every other page or so. Any type of graphic helps readers remember what they read. Graphics anchor the written ideas with a picture.

Illustrations also allow you to be selective in what you show. When your product is complex, sketches give your reader a sip of knowledge. Small mouthfuls, help a reader swallow gallons of information.

Walk through Your Process

Graphs and charts communicate ideas in a glance. They dramatize important points of interest – if not understood, however, they can also befuddle your reader.

Many different people in an organization will read your White Paper: engineers, managers, end-users. Each person has a different interest level.

If your product is complex, hard to understand, or new, graphics that simplify your process will be appreciated by readers.

This may mean breaking down your process into several different simplified graphics.

You want your reader to grasp the meaning quickly, so make it easy. Graphics that progress in a logical manner are also more easily understood. An example is when creating a flow chart, include a clear beginning and end, as well as numbered steps.

Quick Tips for Creating Graphs and Charts:

  • Pie Charts communicate (word) part/whole relationships
  • Bar Graphs show comparisons
  • Line charts show changes over time
  • Organization charts display hierarchy and responsibility
  • Tables help readers compare details
  • Timelines display events in context
  • Cycles display sequence

Besides all these graphical elements, remember white space is important too.

White Space gives Readers a Pause

Using plenty of blank space is also important. This might seem like a waste, but white space actually makes reading easier. You see, your eyes read faster than your brain can understand, so white space gives your mind a way to catch up with your eyes.

To learn more about white paper graphics, read our design articles. OR:

If you’re overwhelmed with writing and designing white papers, contact us. We can take your next white paper from concept to completion.