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1

Donald Norman's guidelines on writing manuals

"Is a manual important? Yes, but even more important is a well-designed product, one so well conceived and constructed that either the manual is not needed at all, or if it is, where the manual can be short, simple, and easy to understand and then to remember."

Norman suggests the following rules to accomplish this:
- Use excellent technical writers
- Make the writers part of the design team
- Let people get right to work with minimum reading by using short and simple explanations with illustrations
- Test the manual with people from the intended user community
- Get rid of the lawyers (or at the least, put their required warnings in a seperate appendix)

Links:

  • How To Write an Effective Manual

Henrik Olsen - January 03, 2006

Permanent link Comments (1)

See also: Help (2) 


 

2

Top Ten Web Design Mistakes 2005

It's time for Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web Design Mistakes. In 2005 Jakob has asked his readers about their opinion. Here's the result:

#1 Legibility problems due to small fonts and low contrast
#2 Non-standard links that violate common expectations
#3 Flash with no purpose beyond annoying people
#4 Content that is not written for the web
#5 Bad search
#6 Browser incompatibility
#7 Cumbersome forms
#8 No contact information or other company information
#9 Layouts with fixed width
#10 Photo enlargements that doesn't show the users the details they expect

Links:

  • The article Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005

Henrik Olsen - October 03, 2005

Permanent link Comments (3)

See also: Forms (11)  Links (12)  Search (24)  Flash (6)  Browsers (2) 


 

3

Line length and reading performance

A study by SURL examines the effects of line length on reading performance. Twenty colleage-ages students read news articles displayed in 35, 55, 75, or 95 characters per line (cpl) from a computer monitor. Reading rates were found to be fastest at 95 cpl.

Users indicated a strong preference for either short or long line lengths. Some participants reported that they felt like they were reading faster at 35 cpl, although this condition resulted in the slowest reading speed.

Links:

  • The article The Effects of Line Length on Reading Online News

Henrik Olsen - July 22, 2005

Permanent link Comments (2)

See also: Research (93) 


 

4

30% of web users have low literacy

According to Jakob Nielsen 30% of web users have low literacy and the number will probably grow to 40% in the next five years.

Unlike higher-literacy users, lower-literacy users don't scan text. They can't understand a text by glancing at it and must carefully read word for word. Scrolling breaks their visual concentration and they start skipping text as soon as it becomes too dense.

Some recommendations:
- Use text aimed at a 6th grade reading level on important landing pages
- On other pages use an 8th grade reading level
- Place main points at the top of the pages
- Make search tolerant of misspellings
- Simplify navigation
- Streamline the page design
- Avoid text that moves or changes

A study showed that revising the text of a web site for lower-literacy users made it perform significant better for both lower- and higher-literacy users.

Links:

  • The article Lower-Literacy Users

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Accessibility (11)  Tips and guidelines (65) 


 

5

Trigger words makes users dig into a site

According to Jared Spool, users browse websites using a Move-Forward-Until-Found Rule:

"...a web page can do only one of two things: either it contains the content the user wants or it contains the links to get them to the content they want. If a page doesn't follow this rule, then the users stop clicking..."

Trigger words is what makes users dig in to a site - words that contain the essential elements that provide the motivation to continue with the site.

In a study where the test participants were first interviewed about what they hoped to find on a number of large websites, UIE found that when the participants were successful in finding their target content, the words that they used in the interview appeared 72% of the time on the site's front page. When they where unsuccessful, their words appeared only 6% of the time.

UIE also found that when the participants didn't find any trigger words, they were far more likely to use the site's search function.

Links:

  • The article The Right Trigger Words

Henrik Olsen - December 13, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Navigation (46)  Links (12)  Research (93) 


 

6

Effects of margins and leading on reading performance

SURL has studied reading performance with four layouts using different margins and leading (space between lines). The results showed that the layouts with margins improved comprehension of the texts, but made reading speed slower. Leading didn't have any significant effect on reading performance. Users favored the layout with margins and high leading, because they found it easier to read.

Links:

  • The article Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts

Henrik Olsen - August 01, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Web page design (23)  Research (93) 


 

7

Readability analyser

At readability.info you can analyse the readability of text and ascertain a multitude of scores and statistic based on common readability formats. The tool can analyse web pages and Word documents.

Links:

  • The online readability analyser at readability.info

Henrik Olsen - May 21, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Tools (51) 


 

8

Web writing that works

Jonathan and Lisa Price, authors of the book Hot Text, have set up a website with loads of tips on how to write for the web. Among the good stuff are their guidelines, their advice on how to write within common genres (such as FAQ's, step-by-step procedures, and customer assistance), and an evaluation tool to measure the quality of your own writing. You'll also find lots of sample chapters from their book spread around the site.

Links:

  • The site Web Writing That Works!

Henrik Olsen - April 26, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Tips and guidelines (65) 


 

9

Optimal line length on monitors

Dr. Bob Bailey has looked at the literature about optimal line length when reading from a monitor: "What can we conclude when users are reading prose text from monitors? Users tend to read faster if the line lengths are longer (up to 10 inches). If the line lengths are too short (2.5 inches or less) it may impede rapid reading. Finally, users tend to prefer lines that are moderately long (4 to 5 inches)."

Links:

  • The article Optimal Line Length: Research Supporting

Henrik Olsen - June 01, 2003

Permanent link Comments (2)

See also: Research (93)  Web page design (23) 


 

10

How to write informative blurbs

Dennis G. Jerz teaches us how to write blurbs:

"On the web, a blurb is a line or short paragraph (20-50 words) that evaluates (or at least summarizes) what the reader will find at the other end of a link. A good blurb should inform, not tease."

According to Jerz, good blurbs can:
- Help people navigate a site by describing content at the other end of a link
- Help people decide whether to invest time in clicking on associated links

Some guidelines:
- Be informative and don't just tease people
- Don't use hyperbole language
- Describe, summarize and/or give a sample of what's to be found at the other side of the link
- By evaluating the content you help people determine the value of the information

Links:

  • Blurbs: Writing Previews of Web Pages

Henrik Olsen - April 01, 2003

Permanent link Comments (1)

See also: Tips and guidelines (65) 


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