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

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

Summary: Studies of how users keep reading the internet found they scan the text that they do not actually read: instead. A report of five different writing styles unearthed that a sample Web site scored 58% higher in measured usability with regards to was written concisely, 47% higher if the text was scannable, and 27% higher with regards to was printed in an objective style rather than the promotional style used in the control condition and many current website pages. Combining these three changes website that gives you answers to homework into a single site that was concise, scannable, and objective at exactly the same time led to 124% higher measured usability.

Unfortunately, this paper is created in a print writing style and is somewhat too academic in style. We know it is bad, however the paper was written whilst the way that is traditional of on a research study. We now have a summary that is short is more designed for online reading.


“Really good writing – that you don’t see much of that on line,” said certainly one of our test participants. And our general impression is that most Web users would agree. Our studies suggest that current Web writing often does not support users in achieving their definitive goal: to get useful information as quickly as you are able to.

We’ve been Web that is running usability since 1994 Nielsen 1994b, Nielsen and Sano 1994, Nielsen 1995. Our studies have been similar to most other Web usability work (e.g., Shum 1996, Spool et al. 1997) and have mainly looked at site architecture, navigation, search, page design, layout, graphic elements and style, and icons. Even so, we have collected user that is many concerning the content during this long variety of studies. Indeed, we now have started to understand that content is king in the user’s mind: When asked for feedback on an internet page, users will comment on the product quality and relevance associated with the content to a much greater extent that we consider to be “user interface” (as opposed to simple information) than they will comment on navigational issues or the page elements. Similarly, when a web page pops up, users focus their attention on the center of the window where they see the body text before they bother looking over headerbars or other navigational elements.

We have derived three main conclusions that are content-oriented our four years’ of Web usability studies Nielsen 1997a:

  • users do not read on the Web; instead they scan the pages, attempting to pick out a sentences that are few even components of sentences to get the information they want
  • users don’t like long, scrolling pages: they prefer the text to be short and to the purpose
  • users detest anything that may seem like marketing fluff or overly hyped language (“marketese”) and prefer factual information.

This point that is latter well illustrated by the following quote from an individual survey we ran on the Sun website:

“One piece of advice, folks: Let’s try not to be so gratuitous and self-inflating. Beginning answers to sense that is common such as “Will Sun support my older Solaris platform?” with answers such as “Sun is exceptionally invested in. ” and “Solaris is a operating that is leading in today’s business community. ” doesn’t give me, as an engineer, lots of confidence in your ability. I want to hear fact, not platitudes and ideology that is self-serving. Hell, why don’t you just paint your house page red beneath the moving banner of, “Computers of the world, Unite underneath the Sun motherland that is glorious!”

Even that we needed to know more about Web writing in order to advise our content creators though we have gained some understanding of Web content from studies that mainly concerned higher-level Web design issues, we felt. We therefore designed a number of studies that specifically looked over how users read website pages.

Overview of Studies

We conducted three studies in which a complete of 81 users read Web pages. The first two studies were qualitative and exploratory and were directed at generating insight into how users read and what they like and dislike. The third study was a measurement study directed at quantifying the potential advantages of several of the most promising writing styles identified in the 1st two studies. All three studies were conducted during the summer of 1997 within the SunSoft usability laboratories in Menlo Park, CA.

A major goal in the initial study was to compare the reading behavior of technical and non-technical users. And even though we had conducted some earlier studies with non-technical participants, the majority of our studies had used users that are highly technical. Also, because of the nature of your site, almost all of the information collected from site surveys was supplied by technical users.

In Study 1, we tested a complete of 11 users: 6 end-users and 5 users that are technical. The main difference between technical and non-technical users did actually play out in participants’ familiarity and expertise with search tools and hypertext. The users that are technical better informed exactly how to execute searches than the end-users were. Technical users also seemed more aware of and much more thinking about following hypertext links. One or more end-user said he could be sometimes reluctant to use hypertext for anxiety about getting lost.

Apart from those differences, there appeared to be no differences that are major how technical and non-technical users approached reading on the internet. Both groups desired scannable text, short text, summaries, etc.

The tasks were classic directed tasks similar to those utilized in the majority of our Web that is previous usability. Users were typically taken to the house page of a specific website and then asked to locate specific home elevators your website. This method was taken to steer clear of the well-known problems when users have to find things by searching the entire Web Web that is entire and Hockley 1997Pollock. Here is an example task:

You are planning a vacation to Las Vegas and would like to know about a local restaurant run by chef Charlie Trotter. You heard it absolutely was found in the MGM Grand hotel and casino, you want extra information concerning the restaurant. You start by looking at the website for Restaurants & Institutions magazine at:

Hint: search for stories on casino foodservice

You will need to find out:
-what the content said about the restaurant
-where food that is most is served at the riverboat casino

Unfortunately, the internet happens to be so hard to use that users wasted enormous amounts of time searching for the page that is specific contained the answer to the question. Even though regarding the intended page, users often could not get the answer simply because they did not look at line that is relevant. As an end result, a lot of Study 1 wound up repeating navigation issues that individuals knew from previous studies and we got fewer results than desired associated with actual reading of content.

Users Want to Search

Upon visiting each site, nearly all of the participants wanted to begin with a keyword search. “an excellent internet search engine is key for an excellent website,” one participant said. If the search engines had not been available, some of the participants said, they might try with the browser’s “Find” command.

Sometimes participants must be asked to try and get the information without the need for a search tool, because searching had not been a focus that is main of study.

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