Web design isn’t just about making good looking screens; it’s also about the functionality, usability and overall impact of webbed communications. Communications.
Web design best practices can help you write better content because writing for the web is an adolescent craft and it has evolved a good deal since 1993 on account of the unique way the audience treats web copy.
Yes, we’ve been using the Inverted Pyramid for decades and decades, and trained journalists and sales copywriters know just how to break the Pyramid to create engaging articles. But the web has truly demonstrated the lack of reading time people will devote to an article.
People don’t read, they scan.
People like headings, they like emboldened words, they like bullet points and they like hyperlinks that stand out in blue. A reader’s eyes pass across the top paragraph, down a bit, across a heading or an interesting para and then down the left half of a page, scanning for key words in the left-most parts of sentences and paragraphs. Jakob taught me this.
Yes, there are other writing styles, like grabbing Attention or making a Promise, but unless we’re trying to sell snake oil, my best advice is to grab the reader by the eye-balls in the first sentence (or in the first few Golden Words) and pile all your good stuff into the top of the article, allowing details and context to slump to the bottom.
Articles that are more conversational might not strictly follow the Inverted Pyramid rules, but they run the risk of losing readers half way though.
What else has Jakob taught me?
OK, so he reminded me that people scan, but he taught me that people scan in the F pattern. He says that consistent use of International English or American English is important, because the visitors to our websites may well be from all over the globe. Jakob also says that people want names and contact details to be readily available, and I agree.
You can learn from Jakob by signing up for his Alertbox email service. You can delete the mails that don’t apply to your world, but the ones that pique your interest will remind you to visit useit.com – as the king of usability, Jakob sacrifices all aesthetics for the benefits of quick load time, universal access and easy navigation. It makes for a retro surfing experience ;/
I like to use the copywriting term ‘copy‘ to refer to content, but I worry that few people understand this term!