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Topic: Writing for the Web

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  • 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.)

    In Defense of Print

    February 1, 1996

    Paper remains the optimal medium for some forms of writing, especially for long works like a book. It is an unfortunate fact that current computer screens lead to a reading speed that is approximately 25% slower than reading from paper. We have invented better screens and it is just a matter of time before reading from computers is as good as reading from paper, but for the time being we have to design our information for the actual screens in use around the world.

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