WWW: Writing for the Wired World International Association of Business Communicators November 28, 2001 Darlene Fichter www.lights.com
Overview • Web Writing - Do’s & Don’ts • Format • Scanning • Style • Language • Jargon
Hearsay or Research? Usability Studies • Observed and tested thousands of people using the web www.usability.gov www.useit.com Stephen Krug, Don’t Make Me Think
Reading & Writing • Goal is to communicate • Strategy • Key messages • Your audience There is nothing more important than the strategy phase. If you don’t spend time on it, it’s like being on a dark road without your headlights on. Drue Miller, Webmistress Vivid Studios
How Users Read on Screens • How do people read on the screen? • Top to bottom • Left to right • Focus first on the micro-content • Scroll to the bottom • Only after failing - side menu - top menu
Reading • 25% slower on the screen • Arial or Times Roman fonts at 12 pt are the most legible
Users Don’t Read • People who are looking for information on the web, they don't READ, they SCAN. • Most people WILL NOT read instructions or HELP.
What if they need to read? Tips: • Provide a good headline and summary. • Make it easy to print the 20 page report or pieces of a 100 page report. • Make sure that longer documents are indexed!
Long HTML Documents • Chunk it • Present a “model” that the users grasp • Offer internal navigation • page to page • back to section • back to table of contents
“Scanability” • Create headings and subheadings • Be consistent • use font and/or color to offset headings
Which is easiest to read? Anatomy Biology Biotechnology Chemistry Microbiology Physics Zoology • Anatomy • Biology • Biotechnology • Chemistry • Microbiology • Physics • Zoology Anatomy Biology Biotechnology Chemistry Microbiology Physics Zoology Research says: List with bullets
Tabular Content Books 20th Century Journals Electronic Books Modernism Impressionism Art Format 20th Century Books Modernism Journals Impressionism Electronic Research says: Use Categories
Scanning for Links How to Find Information • Search the catalogue • Browse by subject • For e-books, click here • Visit our list of web links
Scan for Links • Make the links in your text meaningful. • Make visited and unvisited links contrast with the base font color and with each other. • Designing for scent – Jared Spool 4-9 words
Style • Concise • Pyramid style (newspaper) • Scanning – lists, lists and more lists • Looks a lot like PowerPoint
Language • Use the language of your users • Ambiguity is a problem • Provide context
Classic Mistakes • Web sites are full of jargon • Organized by internal departments and use internal names
Other Important Writing Tasks 404 Document Not Found • Errors • Should stand out from other text • Should be comprehensible
Things to Avoid • “Marketese” • Anything that sounds like “advertising” is a complete turn off … the best, the biggest …
What works? Have you ever been at a web development meeting where people debated the size of an image or the color of link or a label for hours?
“Cookie” Test • Preference or “cookie” testing • My Account • Your Account Status • Chequing Account • Login
Paper Mockups • Test pages and ask where would you click to do X, Y and Z?
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery • Test someone else’s page or site
Task Based Testing • Real users doing typical tasks • Observers • Analysis
Secret to Writing for the Wired World • Observe, test, and learn • Test some more
Thank you! • Questions? • Darlene Fichter Northern Lights Internet Solutions Ltd. • Web Sites Usability & Writing • http://www.lights.com/talks/