Writing with Clarity on the Web
User Experience Strategist
University of Arizona Libraries
2007 public services, reference, instruction
2010 website product manager
2014 ux librarian
2017 ux strategist
Author of two practical guides for librarians:
Usability Testing and
Writing Effectively in Print and on the Web
writing is all about the reader
who is your primary audience?
UA Main Library
what do you know about
experience with library systems
terminology they use
other websites they use
people are on your site for
a specific reason
to get a question answered
to complete a task
what are their primary
● is my child welcome in the
● what technology can I borrow?
● are study rooms are available?
international student persona
they are goal-motivated and task-driven
they depend on headings
they hunt for links
people are impatient
“The first 10 seconds of the page
visit are critical for users’ decision
to stay or leave.”
- Jakob Nielsen
how to write with such people in
“There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Tenure is very important to me, but I must also
think of my teaching. It is a hard balance.”
- Elena Allen, faculty persona
focus on key messages
what is this about?
what is most important?
what can I do here?
keep it simple
“Plain language is part of user-centered design.”
- Ginny Redish
basic sentence structure
short paragraphs and sentences
only what’s necessary
keep paragraphs short sentences per
Ann Handley advises no more than 3 sentences or 6 lines.
keep sentences short words per
Ann Handley advises no more than 25 words. Fragments ok.
be ok with fragments
University of Houston Libraries
a minimum of at least
give preference to prefer
to ensure for
in spite of the fact that though
avoid too many nouns in a row
Data management consultation request form Request a data management consultation
Limited submissions process guidelines Guidelines for limited submissions
English curriculum development assistance Assistance in developing English curriculum
avoid or explain library-ese
circulation, reserves, periodicals, serials, stacks, boolean, truncation
“Is the information commons a website that contains all the campus information?”
avoid vague terms
“Essentially this entire thing is a resource, so how are ‘resources’ different?”
- faculty member
remove unnecessary words
It should be noted that...
It is interesting to note that...
We should point out that...
You will find that...
put relevant content at
the point of need
Rally for Science tortoise
location main page
details of spaces and
types of spaces and
library locations and
New York Public Library > Education > Educators
questions about human-centered, “just
make links look like links
Distinguish links from the rest
of the text.
You shouldn’t need “click here.”
The November/December Newsletter is
The November/December newsletter is
Mentor applicants, please use this form Apply to be a mentor.
If you are unable to find the book, click here
to go to interlibrary loan
If you are unable to find the book, use
make links meaningful
use active, direct voice
Eligibility will be verified by the library. We’ll verify your eligibility.
The Library Instruction Consultation
Request Form may be used for requests.
Request an instruction consultation.
Patrons must sign in to renew books. Sign in to renew books.
write as a conversation
New York Public Library
use bulleted lists for items/options
Duke University Libraries
use numbered lists for steps
start each step with an imperative verb
but minimize instructions
“Your objective should always be to eliminate instructions entirely by making
everything self-explanatory, or as close to it as possible. When instructions are
absolutely necessary, cut them back to a bare minimum.”
- Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think
write like you talk
treat it like a conversation
“read aloud” test
do you sound friendly?
are you easy to understand?
do you sound like yourself?
use active voice
Review: When more applicants apply than we can fund, we ask UA faculty to conduct peer review. We seek at least two
reviewers, but prefer three. We consider conflicts of interest and prefer complementary expertise outside the applicant’s
college. If we need college expertise, we avoid departmental conflicts. Each reviewer normally reviews all pre-proposals.
For large multi-investigator applications, we may ask external reviewers and deans.