Writing for the Web: 3 Useful Guidelines

First, two quick reasons lists are so popular (you can find a whole slew of lists that explain why lists are so popular) and then one reason why you want to use them as a small business owner.

They’re easy to read and comprehend

You’ve probably heard it by now, if not from me by someone else, that users rarely read word-for-word and rather scan the page. Their eyes search for highlighted keywords, meaningful subheadings, bulleted lists, and will potentially speed-read your introduction or conclusion paragraph if you’re lucky. There are nearly countless accounts outlining this phenomenon from Nielsen to Steve Krugg. This fits nicely into why those Buzzfeed-esque articles are so wildly popular on the Internet today—we love scanning. Take a moment to think, have you taken the time to read the contextual paragraphs underneath the lists or do you just read the headlines and move on?

People enjoy having their suspicions proven

While this reason is a bit more anecdotal, social media seems to prove this point on a daily basis. Surf through your feed on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll undoubtedly come across a shared list from a friend who thinks “reason #4 is eerily accurate.” When one succumbs to lure of these clickbait lists, isn’t it always to see if our preconceived item is on that list and we’re either ecstatic that it aligns with our suspicions or dismiss the credibility of the author and walk away frustrated because it doesn’t align with our bias.

Lists drive people to your site

Without a doubt. Aren’t you here now? Lists are popular in our culture today. We enjoy the quick satisfaction of having our biases affirmed and we love being able to quickly and effectively skim large amounts of information. So, why aren’t you creating your content for easy consumption? No one would encourage you to remove all of your meat and potatoes from your website. That’s bad; however, there is something to be said about this trend (a trend that has been fairly steady throughout the history of the Internet).

1. Use bulleted lists when possible

Eye tracking and usability studies have proven that people who use websites are drawn to bulleted lists. Use them when you can to draw users to important information about your business and services. It will help people scan large sections of information and know whether or not the information is relevant to what they are looking for.

2. Link or bold key words

If you visited the previous Nielsen Norman Group article, you’ll notice that they practice all three of these suggestions. It’s not by accident. They link and bold keywords throughout their articles. This helps scanning and enables users to quickly find relevant bits of information. Rarely will people read the entire article; they will, however, scan it for information they themselves believe is pertinent.

3. Use descriptive and meaningful headings

You should be using headings on all of your pages. Not only does it help readers find what they want to spend time on, but it always lets Google and other search engines know what your page is about. Using proper headings and injecting your keywords will help users find your information organically and through search engine searches.

Good Example of How to Create a Webpage
You’ll notice that they use bulleted lists, bold key words, and use headings to help users find the information they’re searching for.

We’re User Experience Certified!

Digital Inflection is now UX Certified

Nielsen Norman Group is the premier user experience (UX) and usability in the world. Jakob Nielsen has been essentially “writing the book” on user experience research and usability testing for decades now. In the mid-1990s he wrote the 10 Usability Heuristics of User Interface Design that are widely used and adopted now. They do user experience research and have written several reports regarding user experience within e-commerce websites and intranets. Suffice it to say, they’re the leader in this industry.

Learning Leads to Certification

In 2013 I was privileged enough to attend NNg’s Usability week and complete five courses including

  • UX Basic Training
  • Human Computer Interaction (HCI) for Real World Problems
  • Mobile Websites and Apps
  • The Human Mind and Usability
  • Usability Testing

Recently, NNg released the ability to become certified. As of September 11, 2014, I’m proud to announce that I (Kenneth Wilson) am one of the first 150 individuals to become certified in user experience by the Nielsen Norman Group.

What’s the Big Deal?

Becoming certified allows me to show prospective clients and colleagues my knowledge, dedication, and interest in the field of user experience and usability testing. It allows Digital Inflection to distinguish itself when bidding for job proposals, gain authority, confidence, and credibility in the field of user experience, and shows our commitment to continual growth and advancement in the  field.

Card Sorting & How it Helps Your Website

card sort similarity matrix
A similarity matrix from a recent card sort

Taking time at the beginning of a web project to ask questions is important. Nearly everyone in the industry would say that requirements gathering is an essential step in developing a website that meets business requirements; however, a lot of the time we miss an important group of people. Card sorting allows us to take a step back from our biases and ask pertinent questions to the users of the website. This is important because biases take all shapes and sizes. For example, if we had a category with cats, dogs, and birds the business might identify this category as animals; however, when conducting the card sort you may find that your users identify this category as pets.

Card sorting allows us to take a step back from our biases and ask pertinent questions to the users of the website.

Card sorting helps explain what categories of information should be on the website and what those categories should be called. Digital Inflection encourages clients to take the time to petition their audience and figure out what they want and not to rely on what we think they want.


Card Sorting Guidelines

Here are some guidelines that Digital Inflection follow:

  • We administer a card sort to 5 people at a time in person
  • For relevant results, 15 participants are required from each primary audience identified
  • Limit content options to 30-40 choices, especially with open card sorts
  • For best results, administer an open card sort to gather category titles and then a closed card sort to identify and clarify associations of content

Analyzing the data can be cumbersome, but that’s what we’re here for. We can develop similarity matrices (pictured)  and dendograms to aid in analysis.

Having the foundation of your website, like the navigation, user-focused will help you easily achieve your business goals.

Ask how Digital Inflection can help you with your next card sort!