Usability: How to write to be found


When I wrote about usability and writing for the web last week I focused on non-technical stuff. Today I thought I’d run through some of the more behind-the-scenes, slightly tech-y detail.

As I already said, users who are reading on the web want to achieve goals and are impatient. So it’s vital that all your content provides value and does so quickly or users will just move on.

Macrocontent – choosing the right navigation method

Really think about how you organise your content. There are multiple strategies to consider:

  • by task
  • by topic
  • audience-based
  • linear narrative
  • non-linear narrative
  • by visual hierarchy

And it’s perfectly acceptable to use a combined approach.

Microcontent – URLs, links and captions

  • These can attract the user’s eye, don’t neglect them. Make them all count
  • Try to write URLs, links and captions at the same time as the rest of your content
  • Headings should be keyword-rich
  • Usable URLs. Remember people read URLs in search results – take the opportunity to hint at your content
  • Summaries can also act as descriptions for search results (see image below)
  • Make links unique and descriptive

Google search result for Coast Digital ‘online marketing agency

Screenshot of Google search results

Metadata – titles, headings, hidden information

  • Each page must have a title – HTML <TITLE> tag, which appears as the window title
  • Make your title unique, concise, descriptive and accurate
  • Try to reflect the main heading and idea
  • Keep it short. 64 characters is the max that will display in a bookmark
  • Frontload your titles, don’t use unimportant words first

All of the above will also help you to be found in search. And users are more likely to click on your entry if it seems relevant to their needs. Did you know that Google has over 26 million pages titled ‘untitled document’?

As with my last entry I credit all of the above to the Nielsen Norman Group.

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