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Daily Archives: 7 April 2011
Less is More
Assuming you’ve got your colour scheme right and everything on your web pages is visually approachable (if not, see my previous post on rubbish colour schemes for help), the next step is to ensure that your text is sensible. Why use well over two hundred words to advertise your meeting times, when less than ten will do? Your visitor will only think that you are an idiot and not want to come and join in with whatever activity you are promoting. In other words, less is more. The fewer words you use to advertise basic information the better. If you can’t manage this, pay a copy writer or someone with half a brain to do it for you.
Following on from the previous point, there will be places when you want to discuss something (hint: you won’t want to be discussing your meeting times). By all means, use the unlimited space of the internet to be discursive but do not waffle. If you’ve said something, you’ve said it. Repeating something over and over again does not win arguments, it just convinces people that you have a very short attention span. Being vague does not sound cool the way it did when you were in college and on drugs, it just sounds like you are a nobby no-mates and on drugs.
Lay out your information in a logical order so that the reader can follow from one point to the next. Adverts must not break the flow of the text. You wouldn’t read a book or a newspaper where the information was chaotically scattered across the page would you? You would? Go to hell!
Key Information Obscured or Missing
Ask yourself what would you want to know if you were coming to this page as a visitor? If you were buying an object, you’d probably want to know its dimensions and weight, as well as its size. All the pretty pictures in the world won’t make up for the lack of its specifications. If you want to know what times the club you are thinking of joining meets, you want to be told specific times, not what the times “probably” are. In other words, be specific and highlight key information so that the reader can scan to it quickly. Don’t imagine for a moment that anyone is actually going to read your prose. People don’t read stuff online, they scan it for the vital information that they want and then they bugger off. If your text is boring and not easy to scan, they bugger off quicker.
Broken or Bad Links
A broken link is a link to a page that does not exist. If your web site is really large, a few broken links are acceptable. In fact, they are probably inevitable because other webmasters will have moved stuff around and didn’t realise that your lousy site linked to it. However, if your web site is only a few pages long, a broken link is about as attractive as a dog turd aperitif. A bad link is a link to the wrong place. Many sites will ask people to inform the webmaster about broken links, so that they can be corrected. Copy and learn, copy and learn!
If you’re going to use headings (and you should), nest them and make each one only one step up in importance from the one before. In other words, do not suddenly embolden, underline, italicise and increase the font size all at once. Take this post, for example. You will see that the post itself has a heading of a certain size. Within the post, I have included sub headings, which are in bold and centred. Then there is the text. The sub headings are only one step up in rank from the text and the post heading only one step up again. Got it? No? Read it again, you muppet.
So Many Words So Little Time
What is the point of repeating the same words over and over again? No-one’s reading them anyway. Stretch yourself a little. The 750,000 words in the English language are all there for a reason: to be used. Go ahead and use them! Never repeat a word unless you can’t manage not to.
… And Finally
Listen to the wise words of George Orwell:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Notice that Orwell couldn’t stick to his own rules: there was no need for the second “out” in rule 3.