Foreword

I have to admit that when Ginny Redish first mentioned that she was thinking of doing a book about writing for the web, my first reaction was a sense of extreme personal relief.

For years, I'd really wanted to read a great book about writing for the web, and for years, one hadn't appeared. There were some very good books about it, but not the book I was waiting for: the one that explained how writing for the web is really different, and why, and exactly what to do about it.

This missing book was starting to feel like one of those puzzling gaps in the fabric of the universe, like the fact that you never see any baby pigeons.1 And it was beginning to look like the only way I was ever going to get to read it was to write it myself. Which I really did not want to do, being by nature averse to both hard work and writing - and fond of my wife and being married to her.2

Knowing Ginny, I knew immediately that she would write the book I wanted to read, hence my relief.

I was also very happy to hear that she was taking it on, because I knew that a lot of people besides me really needed this book. After all,

• Most of the web is about words. The pictures, video, and animation are great, but the words do almost all of the heavy lifting.

• Very few of the millions of sites out there can afford a full-time writer. As a result, most of the people (like you, perhaps) who have to write all those words aren't professional writers. They (you) need some help.

:While Googling to try to find out whether Holden Caulfield was really the first to raise the "Where are all the baby pigeons?" question, I came across a terrific answer: What you see are the babies. The adults are 12 feet tall and only come out at night.

2Years ago, I wrote a tiny 4y2-page chapter about writing for the web in Don't Make Me Think! and it took me, literally, three solid weeks of 10-hour days. No kidding.

• And even for most professional writers, writing for the web is very different from the writing they're used to doing. They could use some expert help, too.

In retrospect, I shouldn't have been puzzled that no one had written this book sooner, since it requires a sort of "perfect storm":

• Someone who really knows her stuff. No one is more qualified than Ginny to do this book. As the saying goes, "She's forgotten more about writing and reading than most people will ever know." And she has a wonderful generosity of spirit that drives her to share freely what she knows, rather than save it for her clients or make it into a proprietary "method."

• Someone who can communicate what she knows. I've always gone out of my way to read everything that Ginny writes or to hear her speak whenever I can, because I know I'll always learn something important and useful. She gets to the heart of things and explains them in a way that makes her readers and audiences feel smarter.

• Someone who's willing to give up a year of her life. No matter what anyone tells you, it takes a year out of your life to write a book like this. Not just a normal calendar year, either, but a year rudely sucked out of your life span, rather like the torture device in The Princess Bride.3 And the truth is, unless you're very lucky (like, lottery-ticket lucky), you'll end up earning pennies an hour for the lost year in the long run.

Having this book - at long last - in my hands reminds me of the way Calvin Trillin once described a miracle-fabric parka his wife had given him that weighed nothing yet allowed him to stand comfortably in the freezing cold for hours: "I don't know how much it cost, because it was a gift. But I have to think . . . about a million dollars."

If you have to do any writing for the web, the advice Ginny is giving here is, as they say in the commercials, priceless. In the years ahead, I'm certain it's going to make the web a much better place to be.

Steve Krug Brookline, Massachusetts

3Come to think of it, a lot like the torture device in The Princess Bride. Especially for your loved ones, who over the years may have grown used to seeing you and talking to you and having you take out the trash occasionally.

Acknowledgments

With gratitude to all who helped me bring this book to you:

• Steve Krug for writing the Foreword

• Elaine Brofford for finding many of the wonderful examples in the book

• Carol Barnum, Tom Brinck, Caroline Jarrett, Jeff Johnson, Steve Krug, Gina Pearson, and Whitney Quesenbery for reviewing drafts and offering excellent suggestions

• Ronnie Lipton for reading a late draft and helping me to let go of some of my words

• Tom Brinck for the great quote in Chapter 13 and for sharing several other stories and examples

• Catherine Courage and her colleagues at Salesforce.com for intranet screens

• Caroline Jarrett, Whitney Quesenbery, and Ian Roddis for sharing stories and screens from work on The Open University's web site

• Caroline Jarrett, again, for sharing the case study of CompareInterestRates.com

• Beth Mazur of AARP for arranging permission to use the personas of Matthew and Edith - and Amy Lee, formerly of AARP, for sharing the personas for a project we did together

• Jakob Nielsen for the eye-tracking pictures that you'll find in Chapters 6 and 10

• Jared Spool for the graph from his research on ideal link length -and for other research

• Marie Tahir of Intuit for her picture of working with a persona

• Diane Cerra, Publishing Director at Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann, for believing in the book and encouraging me throughout the process

• Asma Palmeiro, Diane's assistant, for helping in so many ways from acquiring pictures to keeping track of the files

• Suzanne Kastner and her team at Graphic World for careful copy editing and production

• Marilyn Rash and her team at Elsevier for design and production coordination

• All my clients, colleagues, and workshop participants for helping me hone my key messages so that I can share them with you clearly and concisely

• Edward (Joe) Redish for always being there for me

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