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Topic: Writing for the Web

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  • Blah-Blah Text: Keep, Cut, or Kill?

    October 1, 2007

    Introductory text on Web pages is usually too long, so users skip it. But short intros can increase usability by explaining the remaining content's purpose.

    Write Articles, Not Blog Postings

    July 9, 2007

    To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead, invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.

    Use Old Words When Writing for Findability

    August 28, 2006

    Familiar words spring to mind when users create their search queries. If your writing favors made-up terms over legacy words, users won't find your site.

    Situate Follow-Ups in Context

    December 20, 2004

    Make new or follow-up information easily accessible from the location of the original information or transaction.

    Information Pollution

    August 11, 2003

    Excessive word count and worthless details are making it harder for people to extract useful information. The more you say, the more people tune out your message.

    Designing Web Ads Using Click-Through Data

    September 2, 2001

    Search engine ads are one type of Web advertising that can actually work. To create the best ads, do quick experiments and redesign ads based on usability principles for online writing. Doing so helped us increase ad click-through by 55% to 310%.

    Tagline Blues: What's the Site About?

    July 22, 2001

    A website's tagline must explain what the company does and what makes it unique among competitors. Two questions can help you assess your own tagline: Would it work just as well for competitors? Would any company ever claim the opposite?

    Corporate Websites Get a 'D' in PR

    April 1, 2001

    Corporations spend millions on PR, and yet the press sections of their websites often fail to meet journalists' most basic information needs. In our recent usability study, journalists found answers to only 68% of their questions across a range of corporate sites.

    Regulatory Usability

    September 3, 2000

    Regulatory agencies should not transfer their rules from the print world unchanged to Web content that is being read in a different manner. Instead, regulations should concern the usability of the actual information and whether users understand it.

    Eyetracking Study of Web Readers

    May 14, 2000

    Poynter study confirms older Web content studies: plain headlines work best; users hunt for info, often ignore graphics, and interlace sites.

    Applying Writing Guidelines to Web Pages

    January 6, 1998

    Rewriting pages from a popular website improved measured usability by 159%. Word count was cut to 54%; long pages were split into hypertext; Web writing guidelines were applied.

    How Users Read on the Web

    October 1, 1997

    Users don't read Web pages, they scan. Highlighting and concise writing improved measured usability 47-58%. Marketese imposed a cognitive burden on users and was disliked.

    Be Succinct! (Writing for the Web)

    March 15, 1997

    Reading from screens is 25% slower than from paper and we know that Web users skim rather than read. Web text should be short, emphasize scannability, and be structured into multiple hyperlinked pages (each focused on a subtopic).

    Concise, SCANNABLE, and Objective: How to Write for the Web

    January 1, 1997

    Studies of how users read on the Web found that they do not actually read: instead, they scan the text. A study of five different writing styles found that a sample Web site scored 58% higher in measured usability when it was written concisely, 47% higher when the text was scannable, and 27% higher when it was written in an objective style instead of the promotional style used in the control condition and many current Web pages. Combining these three changes into a single site that was concise, scannable, and objective at the same time resulted in 124% higher measured usability.

    Inverted Pyramids in Cyberspace

    June 1, 1996

    Web copy should follow the inverted pyramid style: start with the conclusion. Many users won't see anything else. (Updated in 2003 and 2011.)

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