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WWW: Writing for the
Wired World

Special Library Association

Western Canada Chapter


January 23, 2002


Darlene Fichter, Data Librarian

University of Saskatchewan

library.usask.ca/~fichter/


Overview


Writing & Reading for the Web


D
o’s & Don’ts


Format


Scanning


Style


Language


Jargon

Not Covering


Field testing


Task based testing


Scenario building


Card sorting


Preference testing (briefly)


Reading & Writing


Goal is to communicate


Strategy


Key messages


Your audience(s)

“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

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


People read:



25% slower on the screen


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

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
WILL
NOT
.

What if they really need
to read?


What should you do?


Tips:



Throw away 50% and then 50% again


Provide a good head line and summary.



Make it easy to print the 20 page report or pieces of
100 page report.



Make sure that your longer documents are indexed!

Long Documents as
HTML


Chunk


slice it and dice it


Present a “model” that the users
understand


Give a table of content


Internal navigation


“page to page”, “back to section”, “back to T of
C”



“Scanability”


Create headings and subheadings


Be consistent


use
font

and/or
color

to offset
headings



Which is easiest to
read? Research says…


Anatomy


Biology


Biotechnology


Chemistry


Microbiology


Physics


Zoology

Anatomy

Biology

Biotechnology

Chemistry

Microbiology

Physics

Zoology

Anatomy
Biology
Biotechnology
Chemistry
Microbiology
Physics
Zoology

1. White space 2. Bullets & white 3. No space


space & no bullets

Which is faster? Why?

Books

Art

Journals

History

Electronic
Books

Geography

Mathematics

Art Books

Geography Journals

History


Electronic

Mathematics

1

2

Organizing Content for
Viewing


In columns, not rows


Categorical not alphabetical



Topic


Format


Art Books


Geography Journals


History


Electronic


Mathematics

Scan for Links


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.
Recommeded web sites on Sociology



Tour


4 sites


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


Which sites work best? Why?


Which sites don’t work as well? Why?

1. John Burgess

2. JIBC Library

3. U of A

4. SFU

Which site worked best?

1

4

3

2

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 on
Library Sites


Library sites are full of jargon.




WinSPIRS


EbscoHost


Access


Database


Gateway


Services


Electronic Reserves

Example


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 ?

Error: Author Search

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 & categorize things


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/ed
itorial_style.html


Software Usability Research Laboratory
Newsletter

http://www.usabilitynews.org


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






Books, Columns &
Reference Sites


Writing & Usability

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

Thank you!


Questions?



Darlene Fichter


University of Saskatchewan Libraries

library.usask.ca/~fichter/