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A Book Review of Letting Go of the Words by Janice (Ginny Reddish)

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  1. A Book Review of Letting Go of the Wordsby Janice (Ginny Reddish) DDD Self –Directed Time January 27, 2012

  2. Why? • Recommended at STC Conference • Keep up with latest trends and research • Frequently cited by other authors • Focus on topic by reading entire book from start to finish

  3. What this book is about • Writing and design • Based on a user-centered design process • Kristina Halvorson - This book “tackles the extraordinarily important concept of content as conversation.” <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  4. What makes writing for the web work well? • It’s like a conversation. • It answers people’s questions. • It lets people grab and go. <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  5. People! People! People! • Successful writers focus on their audience • Steps to understanding your audience • List you major audiences - audiences are people, not departments, institutions, or building • Gather information about your audiences • Use your information to create personas - include goals and tasks • Use your information to write scenarios <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  6. Personas • A composite of characteristics of many real people • What information goes in to a persona • Name • Picture • Demographics (age, ability, job, education, interests,etc.) • Technology • Experience, expertise • Tasks and goals • Make personas a member of the web team (i.e., What would Jim do?) <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  7. Scenarios • Short stories about  what people who come to your site want to do - can be as short as a couple of sentences • Scenarios tell you the conversations people want to start • Everything on the web site should fulfill a scenario (if no plausible scenario for the content, why have it on the website?) <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  8. Successful web experience To have a successful experience on a web site, people have to: • find what they need • understand what they find • act appropriately on that understanding <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  9. Three types of web pages • This book is mostly about writing information pages. <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  10. Home page • Don’t expect people to read much • Make the site’s identity and brand obvious with very few words • Set the tone and personality with choices of color, graphics, typography, writing style, etc. • Make it instantly clear what the site is about • Use mostly links and short descriptions • Let people start key tasks right away <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  11. Pathway pages • Most site visitors are on a hunt - and the pathway is just to get them there • People don’t want to read a lot while hunting • A pathway page is like a table of contents • The smoothness of the path is more important than the number of clicks (within reason) • Many people choose the first option that looks plausible • Many site visitors are landing inside the site <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  12. Writing information, not documents • Break up large documents. • Think topics, not book • Ways to divide web content: • time or sequence (something happens first, them something else) • task (use a single web page for each task) • people (user types) • type of information (step-by-step instructions; clear chunks of facts with good headings) • questions people ask <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  13. Writing information, not documents (cont’d) When deciding how much content to put on a page, consider: • how much people want in one visit • how connected the information is • how long the the web page is (think 3-4 page scrolls max) • the download time • will people want to print; how much? Example: http://www.labrescue.org/labs-available.html <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  14. Focusing on your essential messages • Give people only what they need • Cut, cut, cut - most people don’t want to read much • Start with the key point - write in an inverted pyramid style • Break up the text - keep paragraphs short and use bulleted lists • Layer information - don’t overwhelm with too much information <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  15. Designing your web pages for easy use • Make the page elements obvious, using patterns and alignment • Consider the entire site when planning the design • Work with templates • Keep active space in your content • Beware of false bottoms - don’t pub a horizontal line or large blocks of space across the page • Don’t let headings float • Don’t center text • Set a sans serif font as the default <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  16. Designing web pages (cont’d) • Think broadly about users and their situations when setting type size • Use a fluid layout with a medium line length as a default • Don’t write in all capitals • Don’t underline anything but links • Provide good contrast between text and background • Think about all your site visitors when you choose colors <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  17. Tuning up your sentences As you write: • Picture the people you are talking with (think of your personas if you have them) • Ask yourself: What would someone ask me about this topic on the phone? • Reply to them as if they were on the phone <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  18. Tuning up your sentences (cont’d) • Talk to your site visitors; use “you” • Show that you are a person and that your organization includes people; use “we” • Write in an active voice (most of the time) • Write simple, short, straightforward sentences (~10-20 words) • Cut unnecessary words • Give extra information its own place - don’t put extra stuff between the subject and the verb • Keep paragraphs short • Start with context - first things first, second things second • Put the actions in the verbs, not the nouns • Use your web users’ words <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  19. Using bulleted lists • Use lists to make information easy to grab • Keep most lists short • Short (5-10 items) for unfamiliar lists • Long may be OK with familiar lists (e.g., list of states) • Format lists to make them work well • eliminate the space between the introduction and the list • put a space between long items • Match bullets to your site’s personality <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  20. Using numbered lists • Use numbered lists for instructions • Turn paragraphs into steps • Give even complex instructions as steps • Keep the sentence structure in lists parallel • Don’t number list items if they are not steps and people might confuse them with steps <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  21. Using tables • Use tables when you have numbers to compare • Use tables for a series for “if, then” sentences • Think about tables as answers to questions • Keep tables simple • Format tables so that people focus on the information and not the lines • don’t put thick lines between the columns or between the rows • don’t center the text in a table <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  22. Breaking up text with headings • Start by outlining your content with headings • Ask questions as headings when people come with questions • Use action phrase headings for instructions • Use noun and noun phrase headings sparingly • Use your site visitors’ words in the headings <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  23. Headings (cont’d) • Use parallelism • Keep no more than two levels of headings below the title page • Make heading levels obvious • Distinguish headings from text with type size, bold, or color <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>

  24. Chapters left to read • Using illustrations effectively • Writing meaningful links • Getting from draft to final web pages <Insert Presentation Title in Footer View>