Web Writing That Works!

           A Project of
           The Communication Circle

Guidelines Rants Patterns Poems Services Classes Press Blog Resources About Us Site Map

HomeGuidelines > 2. Make text scannable. > 2c. Highlight keywords and phrases--and links.                    

 

Diagram

Background

Examples

Audience Fit

Challenges

Bonus! Hot Text chapter (94K, PDF, 2 minutes at 56K)

2c. Highlight keywords and phrases--and links.

  • Boldface at least one important word (or phrase) in each paragraph, but not more than three. A reader should be able to tell whether to read a paragraph, based on the emphasized text.
  • If the link is important, write the linktext so that it says something meaningful. The linktext should contribute to the paragraph; it should read as if it were not a link.
  • Move links to the end of the sentence or paragraph.
  • Scan the boldfaced terms and links on your page. Taken as a whole, they should express important aspects of the content on the page. A quick scan of the emphasized text should give a user a good preview.
  • Don’t overdo the emphasis. One or two boldfaced terms, maybe three, but no more. If you find you are boldfacing a bunch of terms in a paragraph, look into breaking them out in a list.

  Diagram

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Background

Emphasize small, important words. —Horton (1990)

Use highlighting and emphasis to make important words catch the user’s eye. Colored text can also be used for emphasis and hypertext anchors stand out by virtue of being blue and underlined. —Nielsen(1997b)

Keep the URL short and memorable. … Each link has a different color and style from the surrounding text, and the link pulls visual focus. —America Online (2001)

Make links accessible but not distracting to the main message. —Lynch (2000)

See bibliography: America Online (2001), Horton (1990), Lynch (2000), Morkes & Nielsen (1997, 1998), Nielsen (1997a, 1997b)

Examples

Original Paragraphs:

When we pour sand continuously from a funnel onto a table, we see a small pile build up. At first the grains of sand stay just about where they land, but as more and more sand pours down, the pile grows, and widens. It becomes a complex, self-organizing system.

As more sand pours down, little trickles of sand go down the pile, here and there, affecting different localities, but nothing dramatic happens to the overall shape—for a while.

Suddenly, an avalanche shakes the pile, dumping huge amounts of sand down the slope, and out onto the table. Adding one extra grain of sand has transformed the system from a state in which there were local perturbations, into a state in which global movement emerges. The complex system has emergent dynamics.

Revised Paragraphs:

When we pour sand continuously from a funnel onto a table, we see a small pile build up. At first the grains of sand stay just about where they land, but as more and more sand pours down, the pile grows, and widens. It becomes a complex, self-organizing system.

As more sand pours down, little trickles of sand go down the pile, here and there, affecting different localities, but nothing dramatic happens to the overall shape—for a while.

Suddenly, an avalanche shakes the pile, dumping huge amounts of sand down the slope, and out onto the table. Adding one extra grain of sand has transformed the system from a state in which there were local perturbations, into a state in which global movement emerges. The complex system has emergent dynamics.

Other ways to make text scannable

2a. Create a meaningful
      title.

2b. Insert meaningful
      headlines and
      subheads.

2d. Turn any list into a
       bulleted or numbered
       list.

Resources on scannability

Taking a Position on Scannability

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Scannability

Poster

 

 

Audience Fit
 
If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun Bold is beautiful, loud, exciting, as long as you don't litter the page with highlights.
To learn Look at a textbook.  Key terms are bolded, so clever students know they will be on the exam. (Dull students skip all the other cues, too.)
To act A link is a dramatic cue to act.  Make sure the reader can see it, putting it at the end of the sentenc eor paragraph.
To be aware Signaling the mind what you consider important helps get your point across, even before someone reads.  Using these tools means you are sensitive to the user's state.
To get close to people Yes, like emoticons, boldfacing and links raise your voice and give a little bounce to your prose.

Ready for some challenges?

 

 

 

Home | Guidelines | Rants | Patterns | Poems | Services | Classes | Press | Blog |
Resources | About Us | Site Map

Web Writing that Works!
http://www.WebWritingThatWorks.com
 © 1999-2004 Jonathan and Lisa Price
The Communication Circle
Discuss at HotText@yahoogroups.com
Email us directly at ThePrices@ThePrices.com
Order Hot Text (the book) from Amazon