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

Summary: Studies of how users continue reading the Web found they scan the text that they do not actually read: instead. A research of five writing that is different found that a sample Web site scored 58% higher in measured usability when it was written concisely, 47% higher if the text was scannable, and 27% higher when it was written in a target style instead of the promotional style utilized in the control condition and lots of current Web pages. Combining these three changes into a site that is single was concise, scannable, and objective at the same time lead to 124% higher measured usability.

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


“Really good writing – you do not see much of that on the Web,” said one of our test participants. And our impression that is general is most Web users would agree. Our studies claim 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 running Web usability studies since 1994 Nielsen 1994b, Nielsen and Sano 1994, Nielsen 1995. Our studies have been much like most other Web usability work (e.g., Shum 1996, Spool et al. 1997) and now have mainly looked over site architecture, navigation, search, page design, layout, graphic elements and style, and icons. Even so, we now have collected user that is many in regards to the content during this long variety of studies. Indeed, we have started to understand that content is king within the user’s mind: When asked for feedback on an internet page, users will touch upon the product quality and relevance of 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 full page comes up, users focus their attention regarding the center associated with the window where they browse the body text before they bother looking over headerbars or any other navigational elements.

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

  • users usually do not continue reading the internet; instead they scan the pages, wanting to pick out a few sentences or even components of sentences to get the information they need
  • users do not like long, scrolling pages: they choose the text to be short and also to the purpose
  • users detest something that may seem like marketing fluff or overly hyped language (“marketese”) and prefer factual information.

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

“One piece of advice, folks: Let’s do not 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. ” does not give me, as an engineer, plenty of confidence in your capability. I want to hear fact, not platitudes and ideology that is self-serving. Hell, you will want to just paint your home page red under the moving banner of, “Computers around the globe, Unite underneath the Sun motherland that is glorious!”

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

Summary of Studies

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

A goal that is major the initial study would be to compare the reading behavior of technical and non-technical users. Despite the fact that we had conducted some earlier studies with non-technical participants, the majority of our studies had used highly technical users. Also, because of the nature of our site, almost all of the information collected from site surveys was provided by technical users.

In Study 1, we tested a total of 11 users: 6 end-users and 5 users that are technical. The difference that is main technical and non-technical users did actually play call at participants’ familiarity and expertise with search tools and hypertext. The users that are technical better informed regarding how to execute searches compared to end-users were. Technical users also seemed more aware of and much more interested in following hypertext links. One or more end-user said he is sometimes hesitant to use hypertext for fear of getting lost.

Apart from those differences, there appeared to be no major variations in 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 similar to those found in most of our previous Web usability studies. Users were typically taken to the home page of a website that is specific then asked to find specific information on the website. This approach was taken to prevent the well-known problems when users need certainly to find things by searching the entire Web Web that is entire and Hockley 1997Pollock. Here is an example task:

you’ve planned a trip to Las Vegas and would like to realize about a restaurant that is local by chef Charlie Trotter. You heard it was located in the MGM Grand hotel and casino, you want more info concerning the restaurant. You begin by looking at the website for Restaurants & Institutions magazine at:

Hint: seek out stories on casino foodservice

Try to find out:
-what this article said concerning the restaurant
-where food that is most is served at the riverboat casino

Unfortunately, the Web is currently so difficult to utilize that users wasted enormous amounts of time trying to find the page that is specific contained the answer to the question. Even if in the intended page, users often could not get the answer simply because they did not see the relevant line. As a result, much of Study 1 wound up repeating navigation issues that people knew from previous studies reddit so we got fewer results than desired associated with actual reading of content.

Users Want to Search

Upon visiting each site, the majority of for the participants wanted to focus on a keyword search. “a search that is good is key for a great website,” one participant said. If the search engines was not available, a few of the participants said, they would try utilising the browser’s “Find” command.

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

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