Web usability doesn’t get a lot of work in the web writing circuit. That’s too bad because learning about it can help you craft that copy that will not only get attention–but keep it.
Listen: in less than four seconds your web visitors need to comprehend what you want them to do.
And notice I didn’t say “read.” I said “comprehend.”
In other words, don’t make them think. That’s been the unbreakable law of the web even before Krug said. (See below.)
Your headlines, subheadlines, links, labels and navigation should all communicate clearly what lies in, under or behind them. You’re giving the reader the control, which is critical to keeping eyeballs pinned to your page.
So no tricks. Nothing clever. Just straight, uncensored, easy-to-digest truth. Do it any other way and you’ll repel people. Bore readers. Lose money.
So how do you write this way? A great way to start is by reading the following books on web usability.
1. Don’t Make Me Think
By Steve Krug
You can blow through this book in one evening. And you should. It’s the only non-writing book that teaches the best lesson about writing for the web: web users go to the web to drive 60 miles per hour—and look at billboards.
The lesson for you is to write stuff that gets noticed.
2. Letting Go of the Words
By Janice Redish
Ginny’s message is simple: good web writing is all about reduction. And this holds true for the 1,000 word article down to the one-word navigation labels on your blog. And don’t miss all the wonderful in-depth, heavily-researched reasons for writing less. That information is worth the cost of the book alone.
3. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web
By Morville and Rosenfeld
Rosenfeld and Morville want you to build websites for growth. That means you have to pay attention to organization, navigation, labeling, searching, research, and conceptual design. Once you do this, how you write will dramatically change.
4. Prioritizing Web Usability
By Nielson + Horanger
Say the name “Jakob Nielson” around most designers and they’ll pucker up. That’s too bad because Nielson’s wisdom, experience, and hundreds of real-world user tests and contemporary Web site critiques can transform your writing into a precise, lean and tight muscle that thinks about nothing else but creating killer content.
5. The Big Red Fez
By Seth Godin
This one takes the cake because it’s a really small book with a message so graphically simple that it makes you laugh. But don’t mistake that for fluff. In just under 113 pages you learn why bad things happen to good website–and how to fix it. If you read only one of these five books, read this one.