0.2 Skimmers, Swimmers, and Divers

The world of webdesign has identified many principles that aid in facilitating the navigation and consumer digestion of large bodies of information. One such principle comes from the realization that different readers of a document will have different goals and intentions. These difference have been usefully labeled as strategies that go by skimmers, swimmers, and divers1.

  • skimmers: primarily interested in the big picture that they are hoping to glean easily from the surface level of the document. For skimmers to efficiently find what they are looking for, it helps to have well-labeled summaries and clear headings. In particular, this Report has an Executive Summary written with skimmers in mind, and each empirical chapter has a ‘take home messages’ section that provides a short summary of the content.

  • swimmers: swimmers want to ‘get a little wet’ meaning they will get below the surface level of the document and look around more than skimmers. We insert ‘sign posts’ that hopefully make it easy to tell where additional details for any given finding can be found. These include italicized chapter abstracts at the beginning of each chapter and consistently formatted big picture take-home messages at the end of each chapter.

  • divers: divers want to explore everything. They jump write in and will look at just about everything.

In some cases we use blue text boxes to convey concise breakdowns of the key messages in more complicated areas of the report or where some additional sign-posting might help the reader. We hope that using these shaded text boxes will help guide efficient consumption of the material.