How much text should you narrate per screen?

When scripting a elearning program, it can be challenging to determine how much to narrate on a specific screen.  Do you read the entire screen text content, allow the user to read the text, or land somewhere in-between?

I strive to keep the narration segments brief  – 30 seconds or less, if possible.  You can go longer if there is something meaningful happening on the screen appearing in sync with the narrative, but opting for a shorter duration screen is usually best.

Some options for addressing narrative associated with longer text blocks include:

  • If a screen has a large amount of text, consider displaying text for the user to read, but play a tone to let the user know that their audio is working.
  • Read a prompt that says something like “Take a moment to learn more about…”.
  • Read the first sentence or two of a large block of text, bolded, in sync with voiceover, then display the remainder of the text block, along with a verbal prompt to “take a moment to review these issues…” or something similar.
  • Try breaking up large text blocks into separate displays accessed via rollovers or pop-ups.  Then you can limit the narration to introducing the interaction.

Whatever approach you take, it is important to always have something happening on the screen during the narration – either text blocks appearing, or visuals appearing in sync with the narrative description.  Reading block after block of static text  verbatim usually is a attention-killer…

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