Chapter 8. Writing for the Web
254 How Poor Writing Makes Web Sites Fail
258 Understanding How Web Users Read
259 Writing for Your Reader
275 Formatting Text for Readability
With a few exceptions, people visit the Web for its utility, not its beauty. Having a visually appealing site is good, of course, but content is golden. After all, when people enter queries into search engines, they don't type in
Good writing makes a huge difference in page views, time spent on a site, and sales. The essential rule of site usability holds for written content as much as it does for design: Customers choose clarity over confusion.
Don't underestimate the role of effective writing in creating a successful Web site. As goal-oriented people, Web users want to get to their destination, find the interesting or useful information they're looking for, and move on. They don't have the time or the inclination to wade through a sea of text that never gets to the point. Having clear, solid content is one way to
How Poor Writing Makes Web Sites Fail
Disorganized, poorly written content commonly makes users unable to complete basic Web
When users find sites that make it easy to find their answers, they tend to trust and
(Facing page, top)
Good descriptive writing gets noticed. The clear, short blurbs that describe the activities available at this resort impressed users. The enticing tone and clear descriptions gave people positive vibes. While the picture is niceand the text wouldn't work as well without an imagethe words close the deal because they give people a more specific
"In descriptions of each of these things, the grammar and punctuation were very good. I had a good feel about the competency of the company. They had someone review the material and proofread it."
People thought the layout and language used to describe this topic was easy to comprehend. Extraneous text is carved out, leaving only the essentials.
"This is nice and clear. It's got a picture. The text is nice and bold with lots of bullet points… [The page uses] simple words: 'You're hooked up to equipment to monitor your heart.' It's everyday language."
Unfortunately, not all pages on the American Heart Association site are written clearly. For example, the organization's information regarding stem
The over-emphasis on auxiliary details causes people to question the association's motive. Rather than provide information on the potential of stem cell therapies, the site focuses on political obstacles to the expansion of stem cell research, which users view as self-serving.
In addition, bolding words such as "adult" and "pluripotent" doesn't help because it is given no context and so seems arbitrary. Few people know what pluripotent means, but the site provides no definition.
"Having spent a couple of minutes on this site, I don't find that I am any wiser than when I started. I would go somewhere else to find out any more details in a simpler format. I am taking a disliking to the American Heart Association as a result."
Content writers commonly assume that users understand the distinctions among the products and services touted on their Web sites, but that's a mistake. For example, many people who visit investment sites are baffled by
Many people had difficulty deciphering the difference between the various investment options on this site. Financial jargon compounded with superfluous writing makes it
"I'm not familiar with all this stuff. I would read more about it and maybe talk to somebody. The language here is too difficult for people to understand."
"This [site] gives me a lot of information. Understanding it not!"