Rethink document titles and headings that turn into links

An obscure title for a report, report section, or article causes problems both on paper and on the web, but the problems are far greater on the web.

In the paper world, people have the document in hand when they see the title. They can scan or flip through the pages looking at internal headings, charts, graphs, and text to understand how the title relates to the content. On the web, people first see the title as a link - by itself - out of context (Figures 12-3 and 12-4). They have to choose to click to get more.

If the title as a link isn't meaningful, people who should click on it, may not. Result: frustrated potential readers who can't find the information they want; frustrated authors whose work doesn't get read.

Or the opposite may happen. People may click on the link expecting something totally different from what they get. In the paper world, the document is distributed only to the audiences for whom it was written. On the web, everyone may see the title. It may be on a web page they got while looking for something else. It may show up in a search.

You must think not only about the people who should choose the link to your information, but also those who should not choose it.

As a web content writer or editor, you may not control the titles of all the documents that you are turning into web pages. But take this guideline to heart and pass it on to the people who are writing those documents. You'll be helping them relate to their audiences. You'll be helping those audiences - and the document's non-audiences. You'll be saving yourself the work of having to come up with a description to clarify an obscure or misleading title.

2. Rethink document titles and headings that turn into links

That's where the information I need will be.

How Much Do Americans Pay for Fruits and Vegetables?

A clear, informative report f ^J title draws people to click on the link.

I'm a private pilot. I'll click this to order road maps

I'm a private pilot. I'll click this to order road maps

Roadmap for Performance-Based Navigation f^S In a usability test with people ( Js J who fly their own planes, some thought this was a link to real road maps. It's not; it's the title of the agency's strategic plan.

Figure 12-3 Report titles become links on the web out of context. People don't know what they will get until they click on the link.

In this report...

Chapters are m Adobe Acrobat PDF Format.

• Abstract, Acknowledgments, Contents, Executive Summary, ¿35 kb

• Introduction, 109 kb

• Literature Review, 228 kb

• Alternative Designs, 330 kb

Traditional section titles for reports - with no real content - don't work on the web.

Figure 12-4 Report section titles also become links on the web. How do web readers know which appendix has the information they need?

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