Friday, April 23, 2010

Writing Imperfectly

As I've come to expect from myself, I'd sat through about 3 minutes of day two of training before I was reminded that my memory is far from perfect. Or my interpretation of my memory... however that best makes sense to you.

what I meant yesterday about writing on an 8th grade level. You should still aspire to do this, don't get me wrong, but in doing so, don't talk down to your audience - but rather, write in a way that makes sense to a wide audience and simplify... focusing on that 8th grade level.

One other thing I can't believe I forgot to tell you about (it's true that the most obvious things are often what escapes us) is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Both users (90% of the time people use search engines, rather than a specific pages' Search, for open-ended queries) and search engines have become so much more sophisticated - users are inputting longer search requests so that miniscule little "Search" box is becoming inadequate.

I'm personally ready to move on, though. Enough with the Web Usability... and onto Writing for the Web (which nicely picked up right where day one had left off):

  • Who are we (us, online)? We don't want to read a lot, we're impatient, and we are on the move. Keep this in mind as you create content (and I'll continue to write more of what you don't want to and don't have time to read).

  • Do NOT attempt to take printed material and just 'paste' it onto a website. It just won't work.

  • Committed readers (people who stay on a page to read at least 1/2 of the content) are few and far between:

    • Pages with 50 words are optimal with 80% committed readers (this doesn't mean to cut all of your pages down to 50 words but to focus on chunking your content into readable sections)

    • Pages with 100 words fall down to 50% committed readers

    • Pages with 200 words gain an obismal 30% committed readers

  • Users love lists!! Bold words! We see these as shortcuts to finding what we're looking for.

  • The words "Click here" or "Link here" are lost opportunities to give your readers more information; instead make an 'article heading' (or other content rich text) a link.

  • Accessibility is important! But not just for the handicapped. If you write with Accessibility in mind, you're designing a page so that all users can more quickly receive the information they desire.

  • Stock photos... oh, stock photos. They present a credibility loss for the site as users find them off-putting and they might incorrectly portray an image for your site. People are more drawn to non-professional pictures that they can relate to.

And with that, I have given you a classic "do as I say, not as I do" as my writing here certainly would be an embarrassment to the lecturer who imparted her wisdom to us yesterday. Hopefully, though, we can all continue to learn and practice together.

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