How To Boost Reader Engagement By Adding Progress Indicators to Your Blog Posts
“How long is this gonna take to read?!”
That’s the subconscious question every online visitor asks themselves before reading anything you, me, or anyone has ever published.
And can you blame them?
With so many blog posts, books, news feeds, Netflix shows and YouTube channels out there vying for our precious attention, ain’t nobody got time to do it all.
That’s why most online content just gets ignored (including yours).
So other than putting the extra effort in to write catchy titles, make your headings skim friendly & create eye-popping visuals for your posts, are there any easy buttons you can press RIGHT NOW to help break through the noise and get visitors to keep reading right down to your comments section?
Keep scrolling to learn how you can boost your reader engagement by quickly adding Reading Progress Indicators to your blog posts if you happen to use the most powerful theme builder for WordPress...
What Are Reading Progress Indicators?
Reading Progress Indicators take a few different forms and include:
- Horizontal Progress Bars
- Estimated Reading Timer Indicators
- Reading Time Remaining Indicators
To get an idea of exactly how they’re being used on various websites, take a look at the following real-life examples...
Horizontal Progress Bars
These are left-to-right progress bars that appear at the top of pages, visually illustrating how far a reader is within a piece of content as they scroll up or down a page.
Stronger by Science Blog
The Stronger by Science blog uses a thin, blue horizontal progress bar at the very top of its articles:
Hubspot’s blog uses a thick, orange horizontal progress bar at the bottom of Sticky Transition Headers for each article:
Estimated Reading Time Indicators
These common time estimate indicators (usually in minutes) are typically embedded in the above-the-fold Top Sections of long form blog posts, long form writing platforms (like Medium) and even journalistic news site articles.
The online writing platform Medium popularized estimated reading times by making it a core feature for all its content. Here’s a look at one such article by media theorist and author Douglas Rushkoff (on his Medium subdomain called OneZero):
Mark Manson’s Blog
Mark Manson uses estimated reading times within the above-the-fold Top Sections of all his posts:
Reading Time Remaining Indicators
This feature is similar to the estimated reading time indicator, but differs by remaining visible as readers scroll (up or down). That’s because it lives inside a floating element (like a Sticky Sidebar) and constantly auto-updates itself as to what the remaining reading time is (usually in minutes).
Modern Manimal Blog
Because you can now create Auto-Updating Reading Time Remaining indicators with Thrive Theme Builder…
...I just added this cool new feature to my own WordPress blog!
Why Are Progress Indicators So Darn Engaging?
Reading progress indicators are typically displayed on sites that publish long form content.
It’s become one of the best ways to inform readers just how much time they’ll need to complete a given article — finishing it right then and there if it’s short, or setting aside an appropriate amount of time to read it later if it’s too lengthy for the moment.
Defining up front what’s required to consume your content provides potential readers with a finite framework from which to make a necessary time commitment. As Marina Konnikova states in her New Yorker article about why people love listicles (based on supporting evidence): “The more we know about something—including precisely how much time it will consume—the greater the chance we will commit to it.”
So when it comes to boosting engagement on your blog, displaying reading progress indicators is a simple & easy way to encourage online visitors to:
- Start reading your posts (because they indicate the time required up front).
- Feel less overwhelmed by your long articles (because it helps people feel oriented within lengthy content).
- Complete an article once started (because the finish line remains in constant sight).
And given how search engines like Google interpret lower bounce rates & longer session times as positive signals that content is good, Reading Progress Indicators could have a meaningful impact on your site's search engine rankings too!
So now that we've covered the WHY behind reading progress indicators, let’s now discuss HOW you can deploy them on your own site using Thrive Theme Builder...
How To Add Reading Progress Indicators to Your Blog Posts Using Thrive Theme Builder
The easiest way to add Reading Progress Indicators to your WordPress site is by modifying your Post theme templates within Thrive Theme Builder.
By doing so, you can include elements like Estimated Reading Times in your above-the-fold Top Sections, Auto-Updating Reading Time Remaining indicators in your Sticky Sidebars, and Horizontal Progress Bars at the top of your articles.
To add your choice of reading time indicator, each requires the common first step of opening your WordPress dashboard, navigating to the Templates area of your Thrive Theme Builder dashboard, and opening the visual editor for the Default Post template you’re going to modify:
Once the Thrive Theme Builder visual editor is locked & loaded, use the following instructions to deploy one (or even all!) of the reading progress indicators described below...
Adding Horizontal Progress Bars
Start by highlighting the “Theme Template Name” breadcrumb and opening the Main Options tab in the left sidebar.
From there, simply toggle ON the “Reading progress indicator” option and choose which “Progress indicator location” you want to use (in the dropdown box that appears).
You have 2 options...
Option 1: Top of viewport
Use this horizontal progress bar option with fixed headers (that disappear as you scroll down the page):
Option 2: Underneath the header
Use this horizontal progress bar option with your Sticky Headers or even Sticky Transition Headers:
Once you select your progress indicator location, just assign it a color (your Thrive Theme Builder brand color is recommended) and modify its pixel height as you like:
"Underneath the Header" Progress Bar Pro Tip
If you choose the “Underneath the header” progress indicator location, then you’ll need to make your header “Sticky”.
You can do this by highlighting your Header breadcrumb, entering the “Editing Header” mode, opening the Scroll Behavior tab in the visual editor’s left sidebar, and setting the “Behavior on Scroll” option to Sticky:
And that’s it!
Save your work and you’ll have a Horizontal Progress Bar visually working to inform your readers just how much article they have left to cover when scrolling down your blog posts.
Adding Estimated Reading Time Indicators
To display Estimated Reading Times at the top of your blog posts, you’ll need to drag & drop any design element that uses text into the Top Section of your Default Post template so you can use it to show a particular dynamic text feature.
To do this, first highlight the default text you dropped onto the page and then click on the “stacked pancakes” looking icon in the text editor floating bar. From there, select the “Content” option from the first dropdown box, and then the “Reading time remaining (in minutes)” option in the second dropdown box:
Once applied, the amount of time needed to read an article (in minutes) will replace the default text PLUS the words “minutes remaining”. Just modify this auto-generated suffix to say whatever you want (like “# Minute Read” instead).
Once you save your work, readers will be able to see exactly how long one of your articles takes to read — as soon as a post loads!
Adding Auto-Updating Reading Time Remaining Indicators
This last Reading Time Indicator feature is an adaptation of the Estimated Reading Time indicator discussed above.
Just like the previous indicator feature, first set your text to dynamically display the “Reading time remaining (in minutes)” option.
However, now you’ll make sure this dynamic text lives in a floating element (like a Sticky Sidebar) instead of a fixed, above-the-fold Top Section:
Because the “Reading time remaining (in minutes)” dynamic text feature auto-updates itself as you scroll down the page, it’s perfect for showing readers how much time is left to finish a given article — no matter where they currently are within the text.
To get started deploying this feature, make sure the design element you’re adding the dynamic text to is “Sticky” (so it’ll remain visible as your readers scroll). Sticky Sidebars are great candidates for this job!
If adding this feature to a Sticky Sidebar, just highlight the Sidebar Section breadcrumb in your visual editor window, open its Scroll Behaviour tab in the visual editor’s left sidebar, and toggle ON the “Enable sticky sidebar” option:
Now you’re ready to add a Text element to the Sidebar Section. It’s best to do this in the middle of the Sidebar Section so it remains visible as readers scroll up or down a page:
Just add or modify any prefix and/or suffix text you need to complement the “Reading time remaining (in minutes)” dynamic text to suit your Sticky Sidebar. Then save your work.
Now when your readers scroll through your articles, the time remaining will always be visible.
Where Should You Use Reading Progress Indicators?
It’s true that these Reading Progress Indicator features are pretty awesome and super easy to deploy on ANY of your theme templates inside Thrive Theme Builder…
...but should you use them across every single post and page of your website?
Here’s some important suggestions about WHERE and WHERE NOT to use Reading Progress Indicators on your site to maximize their retention boosting potential:
DO Use Reading Progress Indicators on:
DON’T Use Reading Progress Indicators on:
How Long Does It Take to Read Your Posts?
Would your content benefit from more readers making it to the comments section?
Of course it would, so take a few minutes right now to add (at least) one of the 3 progress indicator features discussed above to your “Default Post” template inside Thrive Theme Builder.
We’re constantly adding awesome new features AND professionally designed templates to all our products to make it easier, faster, and even fun to run a successful online business.
Still have any questions about Reading Progress Indicators or how to customize them to suit your website? Please share them in the comments section below!