Usability guru Jakob Nielsen has more thoughts on writing Web-headlines and how they benefit from the use of the passive voice. Nielsen's classic 1998 essay "Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines
" is the single most important essay I've ever read on good Web style, and today's followup, "Passive Voice Is Redeemed For Web Headings," is an intriguing followup.
Nielsen's thesis is that the passive voice -- which is usually frowned upon by people who love good prose -- enables headline writers to "front-load" their heds with the key concepts from the story, making it easier for people scanning those headlines (as search results or feed headlines) to pick out their meaning more quickly.
However, recent findings from our eyetracking research emphasized the overwhelming importance of getting the first 2 words right, since that's often all users see when they scan Web pages. Given this, we have to bend the writing guidelines a bit, especially for elements that users fixate on when they scan – that is, headlines, subheads, summaries, captions, hypertext links, and bulleted lists.
Words are usually the main moneymakers on a website. Selecting the first 2 words for your page titles is probably the highest-impact ROI-boosting design decision you make in a Web project. Front-loading important keywords trumps most other design considerations.
Writing the first 2 words of summaries runs a close second. Here, too, you might want to succumb to passive voice if it lets you pull key terms into the lead.
Design critique of Jakob Nielsen
Jakob Nielsen consisely summarizes all the reasons that reading PDFs on-screen sucks.
Jakob Nielsen AlertBox on designing the PR section of your Website to make journos happy
Nielsen's top-10 blog usability mistakes
Nielsen: User-education won't fix security
Coming after improvements to Firefox and continued unease at Google’s life-pervading insight, this image is outperforming the ███████ ████ Virality Control Group today (via). It got me thinking about all the promises that were made. Here’s the earliest article in Google News to contain “Big browser” in its headline, published by Time Magazine on Nov. […]
The WiFi232 is a traditional old-timey old-schooley Hayes-compatible 300-115200 baud modem, no wider than its own parallel DB25 port. Automatically responds with a customizable busy message when already in a call. The killer app seems to be using it to get internet onto ancient retro portables like the TRS-80 Model 102, but it’s been put […]
Most tech-media takes on the iPhone’s 10th anniversary are bland and self-congratulatory, but I like Tom Warren’s at The Verge. He laments how Apple’s pocket computer killed his inner nerd. As a youngster, he’d be constantly tearing down and building computers, even in the sweltering heat of summer. But now… …All of that tinkering and […]
The current web development landscape is rife with buzzwords and technology that gets abandoned almost as soon as it’s made. If you’ve never written a line of code before, it can be hard to figure out what’s coming, what’s here to stay, or how to get ahead.This Beginner Web Development Bundle is a great place […]
The Fader Stealth Quadcopter from TRNDlabs packs incredible flight performance into a package small enough to land on your phone screen, and it’s available now in the Boing Boing Store.The Fader’s six-axis gyroscope module gives it perfect balance in the air. This makes the onboard 720p HD camera all the better for shooting amazing flight […]
Although fully autonomous vehicles aren’t yet allowed on public streets, they are poised to dominate the roads in the not-too-distant future. But before that happens, Apple, Google, Uber, and other companies now investing in self-driving tech are going to need talented developers that can account for the dizzying array of factors at play when a […]