A polydactyl cat strongly reacting to auto-play video on a website.
Audio-play video or audio will immediately get a website added to negative usability example lists, incessant mocking, as well as, post-dating the website (what is this, 2002?). The major reasons for avoiding auto-play are:
- Screen Readers: Usability annoyance (especially for handicapped/blind users)
- People already listening to music
- Users viewing page in an office setting
Auto-play media went out of fashion in 1998-2002 when more developers started to pay attention to their analytics and noticed that users bounced in droves when encountering auto-play (video or audio).
The correct way to display audio or video content is to introduce user to this content on a landing page (images, text and link) or your homepage and then allow the user to determine whether they will click on and play the media.
Need another opinion?
Auto-play is annoying.
Auto-play is really annoying.
Jakob Nielsen thinks it’s annoying.
We all want others to like us. People like us when we provide something useful and something unique.
Most people have an average of 3.1 email accounts (2.9 billion email accounts worldwide) so you are probably part of the group that sends out 188 billion messages each day.
Each day we’re subjected to a firehose of information, but what people really want is content that is clear, concise and delivers value. Since email is the primary touchpoint for most people each day make yours more effective.
Don’t make readers struggle through dense, cluttered and unorganized writing. Users can delete or ignore your email exactly like search mode when users click the back button. Every reader who comes across new email content asks these questions:
- Can this information solve a problem or answer a question for me?
- Is this information good enough to share with others?
- Can I quickly understand, react and process this request?
4 keys to email
Regardless of your desired outcome each of these email messages must have:
- Clear, accurate and “non-spammy” subject line: Most mail servers use third party software to scan the subject lines. Make certain that your subject line accurately describes the content.
- Summary message: Email is not long-form. Resist the urge to produce every detail. Keep your message short and on-point. In fact, repeat and boldface the subject in the first line.
- Complete email signature: Add appropriate URLs for your website, blog, portfolio or product. Verify that the links are functional so that the reader can connect to you in one click.
- Clear formats and fonts: Use standard capitalization and spelling; avoid odd typefaces; use 10 or 12 point text (Arial, Verdana and Tahoma are solid, easy-to-read fonts).
Email Subject Lines: Your starting point
Don’t begin with odd, cheesy or spammy phrases. These will invariably result in your email being ignored. Keep your subject lines simple and to the point.
MailChimp prepared a study that analyzed the open rates for over 200 million emails. Open rates ranged from 93% to 0.5%. Personal messages top interest, followed by affiliations and timely news. Stale newsletters, requests for money and offers too good to be true bring up the rear.
- Avoid these words: Help, Percent off, Reminder and Free. Trigger spam filters.
- Be Local: Personalization, such as including a recipient’s first name or last name, doesn’t significantly improve open rates. Providing localization, such as including a city name, does help.
- Newsletters: Newsletters tend to start with high open rates, but all experience some reduction in time. The challenge to the newsletter writer is to keep the content fresh. Repeating the same subject line for each newsletter accelerates the drop in open rates.
- Subject Line Length: The general rule of thumb in email marketing is to keep your subject line to 50 characters or less.
- Promotional Emails: Keep the message straightforward and avoid using splashy promotional phrases, CAPS, or exclamation marks in your subject lines. Subject lines framed as questions can often perform better.
Summary: Be consistent and build all your digital copy for maximum readability and usability. Start with email.
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M
Questions answered by non-clients help us discover how others think about your business and what language they use to describe what you do. Basic user testing answers to these questions will make our content clear and precise and give people more opportunity to discover our ideas via word-of-mouth.
Think of your homepage language as your elevator speech. You have a small window of opportunity to capture someone’s attention. Will they be able to understand exactly what you do and then care enough to repeat your story?
What do you do?
We’re a next generation innovative company that is seamlessly merging world class, value added, and cost effective outcomes for clients. We make things worth talking about.
We provide local restaurants and bars with a strong social media base that includes monitoring, analysis and coaching in order to increase sales, visibility, and customer service.
Tell us exactly what you do.
Use this quick survey with friends and non-clients to tune your ear for a good introduction.
Basic survey questions about your business
Provide a complete description: “Our business does this . . . . . . . . .”
- What does this business do?
- What services do you think this business would offer clients?
- What two questions do you want answered on your first visit to the website?
- Use three words to describe this business.
- Use one keyword phrase or search query that you would type to discover this business.
- What are you surprised to learn about this business?
Now build a better introduction based on words and phrases that your customers use, the web patterns that they are comfortable with and include something that ‘they’ found interesting or essential.
What are the best website intros that you have read? Can you think of any examples of awful website intros?
Photo by Joelk75
It was a meeting of old school/new school when I suggested to my friend Rod how to improve his music review on John Mellencamp with better web writing.
I love his writing and understand his style and pace, but attention deficit-driven listeners might ping-pong right past (I noted the 0 comments and only 8 tweets that the review produced).
Let’s keep the narrative in the chalice. I love the part about Mellencamp’s travel studios and retro recording, but let’s add elements to the top and bottom to satisfy the scan readers and web writing best practices.
You can think of it as a deck head. It tells the reader what’s coming. Jakob Neilsen is a web usability guru who has done wonderful research on how people use websites and how they read on websites.
Subheads every six paragraphs
Search robots and spiders scan web content for H1 heads, H2 heads, copy, links, etc. So when you build subheads you not only give the page better readability but make it more searchable.
Build pop-up hyperlinks into your story? When people scan content they might come across an idea or reference that they want to explore. Old school thinking was that it was dumb to give people the opportunity to leave the page. New school is that you become a trusted reference source and people will scan a pop-up box and return to your content, satisfied and convinced that you are a credible source.
Bottom call to action
After your brilliant closing thought, you ask a question or reference more information. Don’t exit softly into the night, leave me wanting more.
Don’t bruise a great narrative by stuffing it into rigid format. Keep the narrative in the chalice (keep it pure), but liberate the content for web search and readability.
Read Rod Lockwood’s review and let us know what you think.
4 usability questions + 4 usability answers = 1 thin mint
One little survey monkey is asking four questions about your basic experience in finding information on a website.
Improving usability and improving content is your goal during the design process as well as after your website’s debut.
Don’t stop advancing toward the best experience possible. Use different tools.
- Usability testing: asking and then watching people complete basic tasks on your website
- Surveys/polls: collecting opinions on prompted questions
- A/B testing: Tracking results of different options
Answer four quick questions now that might result in four fewer clicks for you in the future.
Layering running gear for cold temperatures involves 3 layers
Anyone who has ever trained for a marathon in the dead of winter and cannot bear a long run on the treadmill knows about layering. Anyone who has ever tried to keep readers from overloading on web content also knows about layering.
Layering (or linking) web content helps to pace and divide information on a web page. This helps each web reader get the amount of information that they want on a topic and prevents the reader from feeling overwhelmed.
Layering running gear for cold temperatures involves 3 layers: a base layer, middle layer and outer shell.
- Base layer: A tech or wicking fiber to keep the skin dry.
- Middle layer: Long-sleeve micro-fiber insulates and regulates your core temperature.
- Outer shell: Protects from wind, water and snow. An example of the blend might be 65 percent nylon, 25 percent polyester, and 10 percent spandex.
Layering web content involves 3 layers.
You can use pop-up windows or opening and closing overlays on the same page, but overall you have improved usability by giving readers an opportunity to digest the base content and decide if they want more information.
Your web writing and content strategy has served two groups: scan readers, who have satisfied themselves with your initial offering and people who seek a deeper dive into your base content with layered links.
Now that you understand layering you’re ready for a 12-mile run in 25-degree February weather.
Your website content inventory should review and prioritize not only every individual content item but also the content set as a whole. There are scripts that will crawl a site and produce all the URLs, but content inventory needs a human touch. You need to collect as much detail as possible about each page. Prepare a site content inventory and ask these questions:
Site content inventory: How effective is the frame?
- What exactly does this content set describe?
- Is the content consistent with the tone set in strategy?
- Identify the content owners, authors for this site.
- What is the life cycle of this content (repair, update schedule)?
- How well organized is this content and its frame? Could navigation improve conversion?
Prepare an individual content inventory and ask these questions:
Individual content inventory: How effective is the content?
- What exactly does this content describe?
- How accurate and how well-sourced is this content?
- Would the reader find this useful, actionable?
- Does every content item have appropriate tags and keywords?
- Is the content user-generated or professionally created?
- Can the reader share this content easily?
An accurate and deliberate inventory will help you develop your content strategy, provide a roadmap for ongoing maintenance, and contain a resource for other stakeholders and developers.
Your content matrix is most useful if it has been updated.
Every website content project, whether creating a content surge for a new website or revamping a dated site begins with building a content matrix.
Content inventory produces a content matrix that will list every existing piece of related content. This may be time consuming and exhausting but the information collected will provide a path forward. This information will show you exactly what needs to be changed and what needs to be developed – a key element in your content marketing efforts and why content marketing is so damn important.
Audit quantity and quality
You will list every piece of content (quantity) and give it a rating (quality). You can produce your content audit on a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is a great planning tool for future content, for layering appropriate content and for informing stakeholders and other development teams where and what content exists.
Your content matrix spreadsheet should contain information like:
- Link ID – Cascading number system that shows the position or source of each page
- Page title – How are long-term care programs rated by the state?
- Page URL – http://www.njltc.org/long_term_care_state
- Page category – Long-term-care insurance
- Tags/keywords – What is this content about?
- Package (was content created as a batch, series?) – NovLTCseries
- Copy status (live, pending, or in development) – Pending
- Image status (photo, video, or other – is the asset available or pending) – Photo
- Content creator (author, author team, source) – J. Ryan
- Description of content – How New Jersey rates and sanctions long-term-care insurance
- Links from content (source) – Link to participating insurers, brochure, consumer booklet
- Source (primary sources for information) – Attorney James Smith, nj.state.gov
- Non-post/functional (PDFs, forms, registration pages, etc.) – Post
- Maintenance (will info need to be updated?) – Yes – refers to 2009 statute
- Birth date (published or created) – Nov. 8, 2009
- Quality (Outdated, redundant, trivial? Rate it 1 to 5 or A, B, C) – 1 or A
Build a hierarchy on your spreadsheet by listing live, pending and developing content. You now have a snapshot of your content and the ability to share precise information.
Don’t stop. The content inventory is dynamic. Your matrix is most useful if it is up to date.