Things to do, or not to do, with text on your website

I know, that most of the time I am nattering away with how you need text, text and more text for your website, with good reason, however, there is, a right way and a wrong way to do that.

Examples of things it's best not to do, and how to correct them:

Wall of text:

By that I mean word, after word, after word, with almost no spaces or breaks, similar to a books layout. Almost impossible to read on screen, you cause the viewer to lose their place, and lose their train of thought. Break it up into smaller, easier to manage bits, otherwise they will give up on trying to read it in short order.

Far too many links:

Similar to the wall of text, where you have line, after line of links, smack up against each other, and the viewer has to wade though all that to find what they want. There is only one place this is allowed or expected, your site map, and even there, if you don't space things out a bit, you are going to annoy people.

This one will make even the most ardent searcher throw up their hands and go, " I do not have time for this" as it's overkill, there is too much information, in a hard to scan format, and they wont even bother to attempt it in most cases, so all the tons of information, you have tried to stuff on one page, is going to go to waste.

There are some exceptions to this, but they are few, and expected, but even in those special cases, you need to put in navigation to help them get around the larger page, such as jump to top codes, or drop down to section codes.

Small fonts:

I have said this before, but will say it again, if the font is too small and the reader has to lean into the screen to see it, they are outa here, as it's not worth the headache to try and read it. Never mind the "experts" who try and tell you that 10 cpi font is more "professional". News, it has nothing to do with professionalism, it has to do with usability, and 10 cpi fonts, save for a few things, like the small links at the bottom of the page, are just too small for most people,

Something to consider, as I have said often, the largest growing group on the net is what ? Elders, ages 55 and up and their largest complaint about most websites is " I can't read this ! " and click goes the mouse, nor are they alone, as even the younger folk can have trouble with this. It is far better to have a few more pages, and have a font size that is readable, without having to strain ones eyes to do it.

( Personal note: I have found most places that say, that sites with larger than 10 cpi fonts, lack professionalism, are the same sites that cram every bit of their text for the page, into a small slot down the middle, and fill up the rest of the page with flashing ads in your face, so their reasoning has more to do with making the text fit the space they have left for it, as they have used up the page, that could have gone for text, with marketing. )

Low contrast:

Light color letters, or colors too close to the background colors, makes for very difficult reading, you want a decent contrast between font color and background. Example, light gray text, on a white background ... bad color choice, there are others that are just as bad.

White back, black text, or like you see here, black back, white text, are the simplest and easiest to read. It is possible to do other combinations, but font sizes, type and density matter when you are putting text over other colors, so choose the font color with care.

Busy backgrounds:

In line with that idea is, if the background is too busy, again it's hard to read the text. If you really love the background, put a table of plain color in for the text to live on, and use the background as a framework around the table, so you get the best of both worlds.

Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors:

While it's not on my top ten list, it does tend to make the viewer think poorly of the site as a whole, if it's poorly written. So spell check, use a read it to me program, ( amazing what that can pick up, as you can hear the mistakes ) and have someone else read it to proof it. Carelessness with your text to a viewer can mean, you will be careless with their orders too.

Talk to the individual, not the mass of viewers:

Only one person can read your web page at time, unless they have a mouse in their pocket :) So talk to that one person, tell them what you are there to do for them, and them alone, as if they are the only person in the world, as at that moment ... they are.

Negative comments:

Building a website can be a lot of work, maintaining it is work, and sometimes things don't go off as planned, and the webmaster is frustrated with it. This can often lead to negative comments like, "here's my stupid webpage", or worse comments. I comes down to, if the webmaster doesn't even like the page, why would anyone else ?

Apologies:

Never apologize for your web page. Whatever skill level you have that you built it with, is the best you have, ( one hopes it's your best at any rate ) and no one can ask more, so don't apologize for it ... ever. Your skills will grow, as time goes on, but everyone has to start somewhere, and every one who is currently a webmaster, all started from the same place, everyone was an Amateur at one point, so never say your sorry.

Too much quotation:

While a little bit of this is acceptable, too much of this, and what tends to happen is the viewer is seeing the exact same text, over and over, when they are looking for specific information. This is beyond annoying, and a complete waste of the viewers time.

I just went looking for the top web mistakes, as this is a common subject this happens with, and found no less than 20 sites out of the top 30, that were taking in each others laundry, so to speak, with direct quotations of each other, the exact same text on every site.

There is also the possible problem here of dealing with someone's copyright, the text copy might be everywhere, but there was an original, and useing quotes, you might be stepping all over someones intellectual toes.

A short direct quote as a lead in, is fine, but beyond that, unless there is very good reason for it, give the viewer some one of a kind text copy, even if the information being presented is the same, make it interesting, and present your own personal viewpoint.

Edit the text:

In the newspaper and magazine world, a form that is all about the printed word, it's called the 5 C's, text that is clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent. Whole teams of people make it their life's work to make sure the text flows from point to point, that it says what the writer wants to say, that it provides what the writer intended to convey to the reader.

So once you write your text copy for the web, set it aside and let it get "cold", then read it again, and then again, do this as often as is needed, to tweak the flow of words to its best, and most understandable level. Your viewer will thank you for the extra effort.

Don't be afraid to repeat yourself:

It is common to see one of kind information, that is stated in the text copy, once and only once. This can be a problem, for a varity of reasons.

As you might notice, if you have read more than one of my little articles, I repeat myself quite a bit, as many things, what I consider the important points, are stated many times, scattered throughout the articles.

Ok, why ?

Simple, I do not assume that you, the reader, will have read ALL of the other pages. Why should the burden for important information be on page ten, and only page ten ? Well what if you skipped that page ? The same goes for sales copy, links to important pages, etc. All of these can, and should be repeated, as you cannot assume that the viewer will follow the progression that you intended, when you wrote the site.

They have choices, and they will use them, and will jump about like a grasshopper, from point to point, page to page, as often they are seeking specific information at that moment in time. Information snacking it's called, and we all do it.

So, build the text copy with that concept in mind, and your viewers typical behavior in mind. Do a self check if you don't believe me, of your own surfing behaviors, and you will find that, if you are like most people, you tend to do the exact thing I am describing, so figure that if YOU do it, so does your viewer, and plan the text accordingly.

More soon
Esta


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