writing for a web environment october 30, 2002 darlene fichter data library coordinator university...
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Writing for a Web Environment
October 30, 2002
Darlene FichterData Library CoordinatorUniversity of Saskatchewan Librarylibrary.usask.ca/~fichter/
Outline Reading & WritingResearch Dos and DontsFormat, typography, style, ...Strategies to encourage good writing
ChallengesFocus on IT the technologyIntranet developers may not have writing experience Programmer, Information architect, Content experts, Intranet manager, DesignersHundreds of authors, no editorAs a result: Writing ignoredTime spent on top level pages onlyTime spent on menus/graphicsSite vs. page
The RealityMicro-content is as important as the navigation, side menus, design
Reading and WritingGoal is to communicateStrategyKey messagesYour audience
Intranet AudienceFocused on getting the job doneDiverse ExperienceNovice to expertUsage patternsOccasional to dailyTasks & domain knowledgeEngineers, Financial analysts, MarketersLanguage and location
Expert/Frequent Users*Have specific goalsDepend on you for speed and accuracyImpatient with low-density graphics that offer only a few choicesPrefer fast loading text menusAppreciate detailed text menus, site maps, site indexes, good search enginesAccelerators ways to bypass the fluff
The majority of Intranet users fall into this category, eventually
Users Want to Know
Top 10 Things Employees Need to Know*Contact informationInternal news about the companyPress coverage about the companyPress coverage about a topic Company policies
Information about competitorsMapsContact information for someone outside the companyLatest analyst reportBackground on unfamiliar company*Alison Head. On-the-Job Research: How Usable Are Corporate Intranets?
How Users Read on ScreensHow do people read on the screen?Top to bottomLeft to rightFocus first on the micro-content Scroll to the bottomOnly after failing - side menu- top menu
Reading25% slower on the screen
Research shows: DONT READ People who are looking for information don't read, they scan. If they have to read a help page, most wont. Readers understand more when reading less.
ScanabilityCreate page titles, headings and subheadingsBe consistent in how you design the headingsUse font and/or color to offset headings
Headings & SubheadingsRule of ThumbEmphasis rule of thumb one at a time. Bold or size.Eyes are tuned to small differences.No need to SHOUT at users.
Punch Up HeadlinesMake every heading word meaningful Make sure the 1st headline or title on page summarizes the contentSeparate sections with 2nd level headings3 levels on one page is about all the reader can grasp
Use ListsUse lists or tablesUse bullets when sequence doesnt matter and use numbers when it doesLists speed up scanning but slow down readingUse lists when you have key concepts, not full sentences
Which is easiest to read? Research saysAnatomyBiologyBiotechnologyChemistryMicrobiologyPhysicsZoologyAnatomyBiologyBiotechnologyChemistryMicrobiologyPhysicsZoologyAnatomy Biology Biotechnology Chemistry Microbiology Physics Zoology
TablesCan help organize content for easier viewing
Table: Example 1Books20th CenturyJournalsVan GoghMapsModernismImpressionism
Table: Example 2Art Format20th Century BooksModernism JournalsImpressionism Maps Van Gogh
Table: Example 3
TablesOrganize your content to be read in columns, not as rowsCategorical not alphabeticalDo not use table borders to delineate the content use space and background color
Users Also Scan for LinksMake the links in your text meaningfulMake visited and unvisited links contrast with the base font color
Example of ScanningEmployee Phone Number SearchSearch by last nameBrowse employees by office locationList all staff, click here
Hypertext: Classic MistakesOverused everything is a link.Used for key concepts instead of lists or headings based on the belief.Often the link is referenced itself interrupting the readers thoughts. To start the tour, click here.
Use Links WiselyHypertext is powerful but can also be distractingLinks can help reduce clutter by moving information to separate Web pagesBut when concentrating on content, people often ignore embedded links
Create Links That Dont Need To Be FollowedUse long descriptive links, captions, or headings so users can eliminate choicesUIEs research shows that links with 4 to 9 words are more effective
Reading Slower: Implications for StyleBe succinctPyramid style (newspaper)Scanning lists, lists and more listsLooks a lot like PowerPoint
5 TipsStrike out useless words. Avoid noun sandwiches. Use you. Cut out redundancies. Use simple, short words.
Rule of Thumb: 50% the word count of conventional writing
Invert the PyramidNewspaper style writingState your conclusion firstSummarize most important items firstThen get to the details
One Idea Per ParagraphStanford/Ponyter study showed that many web visitors will read only the first or second sentences of paragraphUse a strong lead sentence that summarizes contentAka blogs
Harness VerbsVerbs get your visitors energizedUsing active verbs also helps improve your credibility Examples:Download Marketing XYZ presentation.Sign up for XYZ workshop.
Reading & TrustUsers are judgmental and strongly adverse to marketese, or happy talkFor your Intranet to be credible, you must be:CurrentAccurateObjective
Things to AvoidMarketeseAnything that sounds like advertising is a complete turn off the best, the biggest Be objective and factual.
10 Strategies to Encourage Good WritingSet an editorial style guide for acronyms, names, etc.Mandate site wide look & feel using CSS; considering typography when deciding on site designLead by exampleRecognize good writingEncourage key content providers to be observers in usability testing
Educate & marketTips, newslettersSet up pre-publication checklistsTrain new authorsEducate managers that one of the Ws in WWW is writing!Make the case again and again!Intranet microcontent
Secret to Good Wired WritingExcellent sites with examplesImitation Learn from othersUsing external usability test resultsIn-house usability testingWrite often and write a lot
More ResourcesWord substitutionsExampleshttp://library.usask.ca/~fichter/
WWW Writing for the Wired World Intracom 2002Based on Synopsys in Mountain View, Calif.Fireman's Fund Insurance CompanyGale GroupBechtelChevronGilead SciencesSun MicrosystemsDarlene Fichter, www.lights.comWWW Writing for the Wired World Intracom 2002Darlene Fichter, www.lights.com