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

Summary: Studies of how users read on the Web found they scan the text that they do not actually read: instead. A study of five different writing styles discovered 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 instead of the promotional style utilized in the control condition and several current website pages. Combining these three changes into a site that is single was concise, scannable, and objective on top of that led to 124% higher measured usability.

Unfortunately, this paper is created in a print writing style and is somewhat too academic any way you like. We know it is bad, nevertheless the paper was written since the traditional method of reporting on a research study. We now have a summary that is short is more fitted to online reading.


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

We have been Web that is running usability 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 possess mainly looked at site architecture, navigation, search, page design, layout, graphic elements and magnificence, and icons. Even so, we have collected user that is many in regards to the content with this long group of studies. Indeed, we have started to recognize that content is king within the user’s mind: When asked for feedback on an internet page, users will comment on the product quality and relevance regarding the content to a much greater extent than they will comment on navigational issues or perhaps the page elements that people consider to be “user interface” (instead of simple information). Similarly, when a web 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 elements that are navigational.

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

  • users do not keep reading the internet; instead they scan the pages, trying to pick out a few sentences or even components of sentences to obtain the information they desire
  • users don’t like long, scrolling pages: they like the text to be short also to the point
  • 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 a customer survey we ran in the Sun website:

“One piece of advice, folks: Why don’t we 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. ” does not give me, as an engineer, lots of confidence in your capability. I would like to hear fact, not platitudes and ideology that is self-serving. Hell, why not 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 at how users read website pages.

Overview of Studies

We conducted three studies by which an overall total of 81 users read Web pages. The first two studies were qualitative and exploratory and were targeted at generating understanding of how users read and whatever they like and dislike. The study that is third a measurement study directed at quantifying the potential benefits from some of the most promising writing styles identified in the 1st two studies. All three studies were conducted through the summer of 1997 into the SunSoft usability laboratories in Menlo Park, CA.

A major goal in the very first study would be to compare the reading behavior of technical and non-technical users. Even though we had conducted some earlier studies with non-technical participants, nearly all of our studies had used users that are highly technical. Also, because of the nature of your site, the majority of the data 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 technical users. The difference that is main 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 exactly how to perform searches as compared buy essays online to end-users were. Technical users also seemed more aware of and much more thinking about following hypertext links. At least one end-user said he is sometimes reluctant to use hypertext for anxiety about getting lost.

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

The tasks were classic directed tasks comparable to those utilized in almost all of our previous Web usability studies. Users were typically taken up to the home page of a website that is specific then asked to locate specific info on your website. This approach was taken fully to prevent the well-known problems when users need to find things by searching the entire Web Web that is entire and Hockley 1997Pollock. Here is an example task:

you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas and want to find out about a restaurant that is local by chef Charlie Trotter. You heard it was found in the MGM Grand hotel and casino, but you want more information about the restaurant. You start by looking at the website for Restaurants & Institutions magazine at:

Hint: Look for stories on casino foodservice

Attempt to find out:
-what the content said in regards to the restaurant
-where most food is served during the riverboat casino

Unfortunately, the internet is currently so difficult to utilize that users wasted enormous levels of time trying to find the specific page that contained the response to the question. Even if regarding the intended page, users often could not get the answer since they did not look at relevant line. As a result, a lot of Study 1 wound up repeating navigation issues we got fewer results than desired relating to actual reading of content that we knew from previous studies and.

Users Want to Search

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

Sometimes participants needed to be asked to try and get the information without using a search tool, because searching was not a main focus for this study.