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Concise, SCANNABLE, and Objective: How to Write when it comes to Web

By September 4, 2019 No Comments

Concise, SCANNABLE, and Objective: How to Write when it comes to 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 found that a sample Web site scored 58% higher in measured usability when it was written concisely, 47% higher as soon as the text was scannable, and 27% higher when it was written in a goal style rather than 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 lead to 124% higher measured usability.

Unfortunately, this paper is created in a print writing style and is somewhat too academic however you like. We realize this really is bad, however the paper was written as the way that is traditional of on a research study. We now have a summary that is short is more fitted to online reading.


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

We have been Web that is running usability since 1994 Nielsen 1994b, Nielsen and Sano 1994, Nielsen 1995. Our research reports have been just like most other Web usability work (e.g., Shum 1996, Spool et al. 1997) and also have mainly looked at site architecture, navigation, search, page design, layout, graphic elements and style, and icons. Even so, we have collected many user comments concerning the content in this long series of studies. Indeed, we have started to recognize that content is king when you look at the user’s mind: When asked for feedback on an internet page, users will touch upon the standard and relevance for 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 typical page comes up, users focus their attention from the center of this window where they browse the body text before they bother looking over headerbars or any other navigational elements.

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

  • users try not to read on the internet; instead they scan the pages, wanting to pick out a few sentences or even elements of sentences to get the information they want
  • users do not like long, scrolling pages: they prefer the text to be short also to the idea
  • users detest anything that seems like marketing fluff or overly hyped language (“marketese”) and prefer information that is factual.

This latter point is well illustrated because of the following quote from a client survey we ran regarding the Sun website:

“One word 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 dedicated to. ” and “Solaris is a operating that is leading in today’s world of business. ” 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 under the moving banner of, “Computers of the world, Unite under 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 series of studies that specifically looked over how users read website pages.

Overview of Studies

We conducted three studies for which an overall total of 81 users read website pages. The very first two studies were exploratory and qualitative and were geared towards generating understanding of how users read and what they like and dislike. The third study was a measurement study directed at quantifying the possibility advantages from a few of the most promising writing styles identified in the 1st two studies. All three studies were conducted during the summer of 1997 when you look at the SunSoft usability laboratories in Menlo Park, CA.

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

In Study 1, we tested an overall total of 11 users: 6 end-users and 5 users that are technical. The main disimilarity between technical and non-technical users appeared to play out in participants’ familiarity and expertise with search tools and hypertext. The technical users were better informed about how to execute searches as compared to end-users were. Technical users also seemed more aware of and more thinking about following hypertext links. One or more end-user said he could be sometimes hesitant to use hypertext for concern with getting lost.

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

The tasks were classic directed tasks comparable to those found in the majority of our Web that is previous usability. Users were typically taken fully to your home page of a specific website and then asked to find specific home elevators the website. This process was taken fully to prevent the well-known problems when users need to find things by searching the entire Web PollockWeb that is entire and Hockley 1997. Listed here is an example task:

you plan a trip to Las Vegas and want to know about a restaurant that is local by chef Charlie Trotter. You heard it absolutely was found in the MGM Grand casino and hotel, but you want more details in regards to the restaurant. You begin by looking at the website for Restaurants & Institutions magazine at:

Hint: try to find stories on casino foodservice

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

Unfortunately, the internet happens to be so very hard to use that users wasted enormous levels of time searching for the page that is specific contained the answer to the question. Even when regarding the intended page, users often could not get the answer because they didn’t look at line that is relevant. As a result, a lot of Study 1 finished up repeating navigation issues we got fewer results than desired relating to actual reading of content that we knew from previous studies and.

Users Would You Like To Search

Upon visiting each site, nearly all regarding the participants desired to focus on a keyword search. “a search that is good is key for a beneficial website,” one participant said. If a search engine was not available, some of the participants said, they would try utilizing the browser’s “Find” command.

Sometimes participants must be asked to try and discover the information without the need for a search tool, because searching was not a main focus of this study.

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