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Writing with Clarity on the Web

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Presentation for Florida Library Webinars, February 7, 2018. Covers human-centered, "just enough," task-driven, organized, readable, authentic content.

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Writing with Clarity on the Web

  1. 1. Writing with Clarity on the Web Rebecca Blakiston User Experience Strategist University of Arizona Libraries
  2. 2. About me 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
  3. 3. human-centered content writing is all about the reader
  4. 4. who is your primary audience? students faculty employees researchers visitors UA Main Library @sarahshepis
  5. 5. what do you know about them? experience with library systems terminology they use other websites they use Icelandic ranch @brewerm1965
  6. 6. people are on your site for a specific reason to get a question answered to complete a task
  7. 7. what are their primary questions? ● is my child welcome in the library? ● what technology can I borrow? ● are study rooms are available? Sam Wade, international student persona
  8. 8. people skim they are goal-motivated and task-driven they depend on headings they hunt for links
  9. 9. people are impatient “The first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave.” - Jakob Nielsen
  10. 10. how to write with such people in mind? “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
  11. 11. “just enough” content focus, simplify, layer
  12. 12. focus on key messages most important next important least important
  13. 13. what is this about? what is most important? what can I do here?
  14. 14. keep it simple “Plain language is part of user-centered design.” - Ginny Redish familiar terms basic sentence structure short paragraphs and sentences only what’s necessary
  15. 15. keep paragraphs short sentences per paragraph 3 3 1 Ann Handley advises no more than 3 sentences or 6 lines.
  16. 16. keep sentences short words per sentence 10 14 (6) 10 12 Ann Handley advises no more than 25 words. Fragments ok.
  17. 17. be ok with fragments University of Houston Libraries
  18. 18. simplify phrases original revised a minimum of at least give preference to prefer to ensure for in spite of the fact that though
  19. 19. avoid too many nouns in a row original revised 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
  20. 20. avoid or explain library-ese circulation, reserves, periodicals, serials, stacks, boolean, truncation “Is the information commons a website that contains all the campus information?” - student
  21. 21. avoid vague terms resources services “Essentially this entire thing is a resource, so how are ‘resources’ different?” - faculty member
  22. 22. remove unnecessary words Please note… It should be noted that... It is interesting to note that... We should point out that... You will find that...
  23. 23. put relevant content at the point of need Rally for Science tortoise @aclaritymaven
  24. 24. layer information location subpage policies location main page details of spaces and services landing page types of spaces and services homepage library locations and hours
  25. 25. New York Public Library > Education > Educators
  26. 26. questions about human-centered, “just enough” content?
  27. 27. task-driven content what people can do
  28. 28. what do people want to do? primary tasks: ● reserve a study room ● find scholarly articles ● cite sources Muna, graduate student persona
  29. 29. what are their expectations? online forms or PDFs phone numbers or email addresses search or browse functionality Zinnia, medical student persona
  30. 30. clear navigation cinema @catxdavies where am I? what are my options? where can I go next?
  31. 31. intuitive labels, links, buttons active verbs meaningful nouns clearly clickable @liquid06
  32. 32. make links look like links Distinguish links from the rest of the text. You shouldn’t need “click here.”
  33. 33. original revised The November/December Newsletter is now available The November/December newsletter is now available 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 interlibrary loan make links meaningful
  34. 34. use active, direct voice original revised 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.
  35. 35. write as a conversation New York Public Library
  36. 36. NCSU Libraries
  37. 37. organized content logical, skimmable, point-of-need
  38. 38. use headings prioritize organize facilitate skimming University of Michigan Library
  39. 39. try active verbs in headings
  40. 40. use bulleted lists for items/options Duke University Libraries
  41. 41. use numbered lists for steps start each step with an imperative verb
  42. 42. 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
  43. 43. use tables for related content
  44. 44. use parallelism parallel grammatical structure makes content easier to read, scan, and comprehend NCSU Libraries
  45. 45. UNC Chapel Hill Libraries
  46. 46. questions about organized, task-driven content?
  47. 47. readable content easy on the eyes
  48. 48. avoid justification inconsistent spacing between words is harder to read
  49. 49. avoid ALL CAPS they are harder to read and makes it seem like you’re shouting
  50. 50. avoid needless capitalization only use Title Case for titles and proper nouns
  51. 51. avoid italics
  52. 52. left justify, rag right left justify rag right
  53. 53. love white space UC Riverside Library between lines between paragraphs around images
  54. 54. authentic content be yourself
  55. 55. write like you talk treat it like a conversation
  56. 56. “read aloud” test do you sound friendly? are you easy to understand? do you sound like yourself?
  57. 57. 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.
  58. 58. be friendly
  59. 59. be informal United States Digital Service (USDS)
  60. 60. MIT Libraries express yourself
  61. 61. “If you aren’t having fun creating content, you’re doing it wrong.” - Ann Handley
  62. 62. questions?

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