Your Visitors Software
So far, we've focused on web users who come into your site at the home page and navigate down into the site through your pathway pages to the information they want. Certainly, some of your site visitors do that. But many web users bypass those pages. In fact, on many web sites, more site visitors come through an external search engine than through the home page. That's a reality. You have to assume that your Many site visitors are landing inside your site 67 Pages like this give people no clue as to what site they are on, where in that site they are, or how to get to the home page or to anywhere else in the site. Sites with pages like these are losing great opportunities to share all the other wonderful information or products they have with site visitors who come directly from an external search engine. Pages inside a site that have no connection to the rest of the site expose rifts within the organization to the outside world. They send the message that the people doing this part of...
Building your online business by writing valuable content is nothing magical or complicated. It does not require a special genetic gift. it's about providing the information your visitors are looking for. It's not about cutting-edge design, flashy graphics, bells and whistles.
They work sometimes but more often than not, they don't work because site visitors don't know the nouns, don't connect to the nouns, don't give the nouns the same meaning the web writer did. Nouns as headings often don't help either the writer or the site visitor understand the flow of the writing - why one section logically comes before or after another section.
Breaking up task-based information into a single web page for each task is the best way to help web users get just the content they need. Of course, you also need a good search engine and a good navigation structure to allow your site visitors to quickly find the right web page.
Don't arbitrarily reject those decisions there's value to your site visitors in finding a consistency in personality and style across subsites within a larger site. Always connect your site to the home page (and other parts) of the larger site so that people who come into the organization's site through your part get the value of your belonging to that larger organization.
Short descriptions may help people choose well, but pathway pages are not the time for lengthy marketing messages. You market best when you help your site visitors have successful experiences. Most web users don't want to stop to read even your friendly, welcoming messages while they are still hunting for the page they need. Even before getting to the page in Figure 4-4, people have to realize that Homepath is the link they need on the home page. They can't click on For Home Buyers & Homeowners that's a non-clickable title. Homepath is an example of a made-up name that has very little scent it's not likely to mean anything to most people. Site visitors have to guess that it's what they want if they want more information for home buyers and homeowners - and the only reason for that guess is that it's the first link under the more informative title.
When you write questions as headings, you play out both sides of the conversation. You put the site visitor on the page with you - the site visitor asks the question you answer it. When you write statements as headings, you assume the site visitor has asked the question. You keep your site visitors in mind and talk directly to them, without putting them on the page with you.
In a procedure, people work through the list of numbered steps in order. In other lists, you may be telling people that they have a choice among different ways of doing something. If you use numbers for both procedures and other lists, you risk confusing your site visitors. They may not realize that the second type of list is showing alternatives they make think they have a procedure and have to do it all.
Separating information for different site visitors may work well at many levels within a site. The Nokia and Intuit examples earlier in this chapter ask people to self-identify by the product for which they want help. That's typical of support and troubleshooting information on sites that support many products. Figure 5-7 Separating information into general and technical articles may work well. If some site visitors want both, make it obvious how to move from one to the other. www.cancer.gov
However, relying on that research for your web content may not serve your site visitors well. Here are several reasons why that research may not carry over to modern web content Of course, you do not entirely control what your site visitors see. They may have their browser set to always show a particular font. However, as the default, select a highly legible sans serif font. Select one that most of your site visitors are likely to have available on their computers. If you choose an unusual font, most people won't see your pages in that font because browsers use only what the specific computer has available. Do usability testing to make sure your default results in legible pages.
Remember that we are trying to help busy people grab what they need. In most situations, people get the information from active sentences more quickly and more accurately than from passive sentences. And writing in the active voice pressures you to find out who is responsible for actions - information that your site visitors often need to know.
A third consideration in deciding between putting information together on one web page or separating it onto separate web pages is how long it will take for your site visitors to get what they need. Remember that many people still have slow connections and pay by the minute. People are going to be annoyed if they wait a long time for a page that has much more than they need. On the other hand, if you break up the information onto many small pages and your visitors want all those pages, waiting for each one to load may be annoying. And the time between pages may interrupt their putting the information together in their heads.
Animation is so distracting that many people cannot concentrate on anything else on a page where something is animated, even if the animation doesn't intrude into the main content area. So you must ask Is the blinking ad or other animation so important that it trumps the task the web user came to do If you don't let people accomplish the tasks they came to the site to do, you risk losing them as future site visitors. Don't use animation to be cute. Don't use animation just to liven up the site. Remember that you market best by satisfying the need your site visitors came for, not by distracting them away from their tasks.
Even highly educated, sophisticated readers do best with plain English writing. They are often the busiest and most impatient of your site visitors, so words that they recognize most quickly work best. And we all recognize and read the most common words more quickly than less common ones. Here's a very short list of just a few words to change. You can create your own much longer list.
A story inside a story I always start my workshops by having people share a recent web experience with the person sitting next to them. It's an icebreaker it gets people talking and thinking of web users it lets us talk after the exercise about how goal- and task-oriented people are when they go to web sites. A few people share their stories with the whole group. In one workshop, a participant told this story She had a question about her telephone service and went to the company's web site to get an answer to her question. But she could not get into the site. The first web page insisted she watch a video her old computer couldn't show the video she couldn't find a way around the video. But she really wanted the information. So she spent an enormous amount of time finding a phone number (with a paper phone book), calling, being passed from person to person, and became so frustrated that she decided to change her service provider. Don't put roadblocks in your site visitors' way.
If your audience is predominantly teenagers or 20-somethings, you can probably use the equivalent of 10-point type as your default, but be sure it is resizable for other site visitors. If your audience is predominantly older, you might want to set the default at the equivalent of 14-point type, again making it resizable.
Single nouns or short noun phrases can work as labels and as links for general categories and overall topics, but only if your site visitors categorize information as you do, recognize the nouns you use, and give those nouns the same meaning that you do. That's why card sorting and other techniques for understanding how your site visitors would categorize and label your site's information are so critical. Spool suggests that longer links are more likely to have the words your site visitors have in their minds. Longer links have better scent. (See the discussion of scent of information in Chapter 4.)
This design just does not work it makes people work too hard for what they need. In fact, it must not have worked for the Biology Department's site visitors because the site has changed since I captured the web page in Figure 11-21. The page is now a static set of pictures that don't change and are not clickable. But the page uses a subset of the pictures from the old page, so I wonder if people who had used the old site are even more confused now because what was clickable no longer is. In this case, a much greater change in design might have been more effective. And a page that brought the main content - the actual navigation -into the center of the home page might work best.
Type size for the web is not as simple an issue as type size for paper. Whatever you specify for type size, it may be rendered differently on a Windows machine and a Macintosh. It may be different on different monitors and through different browsers. Furthermore, your site visitors may need to adjust the size. They may need to enlarge it because they Set the default large enough for your site visitors
As people move through web sites, the first question they ask on each new page is Did I get where I thought I was going They expect the page title to match the link they clicked on. Matching links and page titles is the best way to reassure your site visitors that they are on a good pathway or have gotten to the information page they expected.
If the links aren't instantly obvious, a few words of description may help your site visitors find the link they need. Although people don't want to read paragraphs of text or uninformative, welcoming marketing messages on pathway pages, they may want brief help in deciding which link to choose to move toward their goal. site visitors understand Figure 4-2 The Coral Cay Conservation organization trains volunteers to collect scientific data to aid conservation. Its web site includes several pathway pages with brief descriptions to help site visitors choose the link they need. www.coralcay.org site visitors understand Figure 4-2 The Coral Cay Conservation organization trains volunteers to collect scientific data to aid conservation. Its web site includes several pathway pages with brief descriptions to help site visitors choose the link they need. www.coralcay.org A list like this on a pathway page assumes that all site visitors know these category names and know which one they want....
Don't get into arguments about what I like or what another I likes. Put your I away. Make everyone else put their I away. Get out your personas (see Chapter 2). Talk about the conversation that your site visitors come to have with you and what information, style, tone, and vocabulary will work best as your (collective) conversational response.
2 Think about the topic from your site visitors' point of view. 3 List the questions that your site visitors ask about the topic. (It's best if you actually know what questions they ask. Use all the sources in Chapter 2 to find out about what your users want to know.) 4 Decide which question your site visitors would ask first - and which they would ask next - and next after that - until you have all the questions in an order that is logical to your site visitors. 6 If you are working from a draft or previous web page, look over what is left that hasn't yet gone under a question in your list. Do your site visitors care about any of what is left Is any of it critical for your site visitors to know If it is critical, write a question that your site visitors might ask so that you can give them the answer. 9 Discard what you have not used. If your site visitors neither need nor care about the information, why include it on the web page This may be the most difficult step to take, but...
Too often I find that web writers have turned their information into questions and answers, but it's still their information - what they want to tell people about themselves, not what their site visitors come to learn. The web writers have not thought deeply enough about their audiences and the questions those people have. They haven't organized the page by putting the questions and answers into an order that is logical to their web site visitors. Making question headings ones that site visitors would ask Do site visitors ask What r 'Aj is the OCC How well does this meet the needs of the site visitors it is for Just think about the mental state of the person who wants to lodge a formal complaint about a bank What adjectives come to your mind about this site visitor How might the Department do a better job of getting its critical information to angry and upset people and also save themselves calls from people who should go elsewhere with their complaints Revising the beginning and...
Remember that you may have site visitors in many countries and that outside of the United States many people print on A4 paper, which is longer and narrower than the 8V2 by 11 inch paper that is the U. S. standard. Remember that your site must print from many different computer configurations, including old operating systems and browsers.
Humans have limited short-term memory capacity, and in working on the web, your site visitors want to concentrate on their goals, not on memorizing links. Don't make using your site more difficult by burdening people's memory when you can help them by making links obvious and by indicating which links have been visited and which have not.
Long questions take up precious space on the web page. Also, as headings, the questions are in bold or color, and large blocks of bold or color become difficult to read. And - despite the power of headings - some site visitors use the headings only as landing spots to see where new sections start. They don't actually read the headings.
You should use we, us, and our throughout the site, not just on the Contact Us page. A major goal of most web sites is to have people get information for themselves without calling or using a live chat option. The more you do to make your site visitors feel that you are in the conversation with them on all your web pages, the more comfortable most people feel.
A page like this is built for the scenario, Mario wants to read all of our customer support policies and procedures at one time. That scenario doesn't seem likely. It's much more likely that site visitors will start conversations like the following with the site. Figure 5-11 Very few, if any, site visitors want all of this long page. The topics go together only from the company's point of view, not from the web user's. www.dymocks.com.au These site visitors each want only the answer to the one question they are asking. They don't want to have to wade through other information to get to what they want.
When site visitors come with questions, you have to provide answers. When site visitors come to do a task, you have to help them through the task. But, because you aren't there in person to lead them to the right place, give them the answer, or walk them through the steps, you have to build your site to do that in your place. You have to build your side of the conversation into the site.
The key message of this chapter is that your busy site visitors are trying to get to the good stuff - to whatever they are looking for - as quickly as possible. They don't want to stop and read on the way. They are still navigating. They aren't there yet. Most site visitors are on a hunt - a mission - and the pathway is just to get them there. Many site visitors are landing inside your site.
Site visitors want to think about their topic, their need - not about how you've put together your site. If people don't feel confident that you are helping them get to what they need, they might not feel confident that your information is credible or that you are a good firm to do business with.
If your site visitors have to stop to figure out what you are showing or why you are showing it, the illustration has lost its value. An illustration must make its function and meaning immediately clear - even if that meaning is just to set the mood. The picture in Figure 11-19 is from
Whether you are writing new content or revising old content, if you find it difficult to write a heading for a section of text, it probably means that the section is not clear or covers too many points all jumbled together. Clarify the content. Break it up into smaller sections. If you find yourself writing the same heading over different sections of text, it probably means that the material is not well organized. Reorganize it to be logical for your site visitors.
Some web users still have small screens or work at low resolution. Those of us who work on large screens at high resolution - and I'm looking at what I'm typing on a 24-inch monitor at a screen resolution of 1900 x 1200 -tend to forget that most of the people who use what we develop aren't working in that environment. Most of your site visitors are probably working at 1024 x 768 but a sizable minority are still using 800 x 600 screens. (Summer 2006 About 20 percent of web users are still at 800 x 600.)
In many cases, you have both can I and how to information about the same topic. You have policies and procedures. Your site visitors may know the can I and need the how to. They may know the how to and need the can I for a specific situation. Answer the different types of questions on separate, linked pages or on separate sections of the same page.
From your site visitors' point of view, your home page, pathway pages, and information pages are all part of the same site. Your site visitors don't know - or care - that different people may be responsible for different parts of the site. To them, it's all part of the same experience -getting the information they need or buying the product they want.
Maps are an excellent way to show geography, but they may not work as well as you assume. Your site visitors may country, and very far down if you are scrolling a list of states. Washington, D.C., is a tiny speck on the map, in the middle of many very small states, and near the beginning alphabetically (as District of Columbia). Think about the people who need to choose places like Liechtenstein and Washington, D.C., when you think of asking site visitors to work with maps.
National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES, part of the U.S. Department of Education) had a link labeled Global ED Locator, usability testing showed that some people thought it led to a directory of department employees. In fact, it leads to databases of educational institutions - colleges, universities, and libraries. Making the label more explicit made all those databases much more available to site visitors. Figure 12-7 Write links in plain language with the words site visitors use.
Don't push your visitors to the click, make them want to click through. It makes all the difference if your visitors feel that it's their idea to deliver your Most Wanted Response (MWR) -- in other words, what you most want your visitor to do on your site. Your MWR is to get your visitors to click through to your order page (or your particular income generation source) so that you can make the sale That's the winning advantage of a content-rich site. It clearly shows to your visitors that you understand their search for quality answers to their questions and that you aim to provide exactly that. A content-rich site builds trust and credibility. In your visitors' eyes, you are a knowledgeable expert who cares Selling is trying to get the sale. Before you sell, PREsell. While selling might be your first priority, it does not come first. Your site's first job is to satisfy your visitors' needs and then lead them to your Most Wanted Response. It's only at that point that selling enters...
So keep your visitors in constant focus and. 1) PREsell don't sell Use great content to create an open-to-buy hire mindset in your customer. Warm up your visitors first. 2) Maximize profit by maximizing your traffic (by delivering lots of topical content) and Conversion Rate (CR). Reach targeted traffic in a reputable fashion (ex., visitors find you via the Search Engines).
The Netwriting Masters Course is not able to discuss the whole success process in detail. The primary job of the Course is to show you how to write content that PREsells ( warms up your visitors) and then converts your visitors into customers. Content covers all your online words, including e-mails, autoresponders, newsletters, ads -basically, every point at which you communicate with your target market.
What resolutions are your site visitors working at What speeds are they connecting with How steady is their connection Do they pay for every minute they are on Are some people getting your web content on small screens - on personal digital assistants (PDAs) on cell phones You'll want to know that as you make decisions about your web content.
A higher search ranking at the engines makes your site easier to find. Your quality content (your words ) builds credibility in the minds of your visitors and converts them into warm PREsold customers. From there, you can easily get that click through to your monetization model (i.e., how you generate income). That could be your order page for your product, or your merchant's site that you represent as an affiliate, or your contact form for hiring details, or Google's Adsense program, etc. By building a Theme-Based Content Site, you will be growing your clientele (i.e., targeted traffic) from the ground up. Owning your traffic is essential to your longevity on the Net because. If you don't own your traffic, you don't own your business. 4) Use that content to attract your own niche-targeted traffic. 5) Build trust and credibility with your visitors.
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