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Words Matter:

Writing for the Web


Darlene Fichter

Data Library Coordinator, U of S Library

January 30, 2004



Overview


Writing & Reading for the Web


D
o’s & Don’ts


Format


Scanning


Style


Language


Jargon



Reading & writing


Goal is to communicate


Strategy


Key messages


Your audience



Rule #1 Write for the way your user's read


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


1

2

3




People read



25% slower on the screen


Find Arial or Times Roman fonts at 12 pt the
most legible



Reading slower: implications for style


Be succinct


Pyramid style (newspaper)


Scanning


lists, lists and more lists


Looks a lot like PowerPoint




5 tips

1.
Strike out useless words.

2.
Avoid noun sandwiches.

3.
Use “you”.

4.
Cut out redundancies.

5.
Use simple, short words.

6.
Avoid all uppercase words.



commercial document delivery services





Instead of

Use


concerning


about


forward


send


in order to


to


facilitate


help


strategy


plan


access (as a verb)


get, assist


assistance


help, aid


construct


build


in the event of


if



Research shows: DON’T read


People who are looking for information
don’t
read, they
scan
.


If they have to read instructions or help page
most people
won’t
.









“Scanability”


Headings


Lists


Create “zones” or areas with blocks of color


Use links





Effective headings


Set styles and stick to them


Be consistent


use
font

and/or
color

to offset headings




Lists, lists and more lists


Lists are quick to scan


Do not use complete sentences in lists



Anatomy

Biology

Biotechnology

Chemistry

Microbiology

Physics

Zoology

Which is easiest to read?


Anatomy


Biology


Biotechnology


Chemistry


Microbiology


Physics


Zoology

Anatomy
Biology
Biotechnology
Chemistry
Microbiology
Physics
Zoology

1. White space 2. Bullets



3. Neither



Which is faster? Why?

Books

Art

Journals

History

Geography

Mathematics

Subjects


Format

Art Books

Geography Journals

History


Maps

Mathematics

1

2



Organizing content for viewing


In columns, not rows


Categorical not alphabetical




Links that work


Make the links in your text meaningful


Make visited and unvisited links contrast with
the base font color.



Example of scanning

How to Find Information

1.
Search the
catalogue

2.
Browse by
subject

3. For e
-
books,
click here

4.
Visit our list of
web resources

5.
Recommended web sites on Sociology





Hypertext: classic mistakes


No followed link color


Links are not underlined


Overused


everything is a link


Self referential
-

To start the tour, click here
.



Use links wisely


Hypertext is powerful but can also be
distracting


Links can help reduce clutter by moving
information to separate Web pages


But when concentrating on content, people
often ignore
embedded

links




Create links that don’t need to be followed


Use long descriptive links, captions, or
headings so users can eliminate choices


UIE’s research shows that
links with 4 to 9
words are more effective



Review what we know:

1.
Writing

2.
Scanning

3.
Links



Tour


Some sites


Jot down notes / opinions about the ability to
scan and find words quickly


If you focus on the writing and content which are
the strengths and weaknesses?













Language


Use the language of your users


Ambiguity is a problem


Provide context



Classic mistakes on library sites


Library sites are full of jargon




WinSPIRS


EbscoHost


Access


Database


Gateway


Services


Electronic Reserves



“Serial failure”


Finding articles


Many studies


Don’t know “database”


Names of database


Software product


Ovid, Webspirs













Labels are challenging


Testing helps


Use a “cookie test”


Create a list of possible
labels:


My Account


Borrower Information


Library Card


Your Library Card



Go where your users are


Your lunch room or hallways at lunch break


Aim for cross
-
section


Ask which they prefer



Reverse Study: Take a few concepts and ask them what
they would call the item or group of items?



Other important writing tasks


Errors


Should stand out from other text


Should be comprehensible

404 not found ?



Things to avoid


“Marketese”


Anything that sounds like “advertising” is a
complete turn off … the best, the biggest …



The “Buzz”: reusability


Write once, use many times


Device independent access


Break content in small nuggets


Assemble to suit


Web Pages


WAP


Headline Services


Alerts



Myths & ironies


Everyone owns a “printing press”


Explosion of publishing


Dirth of “good writing”


Need good writers’ that can create concise
and interesting headlines




Secret to good wired writing


Observe and learn


Write often


Revise, revise and revise


Read the usability studies and research
reports



Good news for librarians


Some of it comes naturally


Group and categorize


Assign labels


Think about words & meaning


Service oriented



Sites for web writing


Writing for the Web


Jakob Nielsen
http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/


Good Documents: How to write for the INTRAnet

http://www.gooddocuments.com/


Yale’s Web Style Guide: Editorial
http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/pages/editorial_style.html


Software Usability Research Laboratory Newsletter

http://www.usabilitynews.org


National Cancer Institute Usability.gov
http://www.usability.gov/








Books, columns & sites


Writing and Usability


http://library.usask.ca/~fichter/writing/



Thank you!


Questions?



Darlene Fichter


University of Saskatchewan Libraries

library.usask.ca/~fichter/