The Best Headlines and Links are “Brutal and To-the-Point”

So says web content guru Gerry McGovern in a well-researched article on The Web Content Cafe.

When writing website content, McGovern says you “don’t get to the point. Start with the point.”

Nowhere is this more crucial than with headings and links. That’s because multiple studies show the first two words need to hit home. An 2004 Eyetrack study from the Poynter Institute found that, “Most people just look at the first couple of words, and only read on if they are engaged by those words.”

Therefore, whenever possible, you must start headings and links with attention-grabbing words that convey the essence of the message.

A study by Jakob Nielsen on links also found people prefer links that are:

  • Written in plain language
  • Specific and clear, and
  • Action-orientated.

Avoid bland generic words (“solutions” comes to mind) and made-up words or terms.

Other helpful tips include:

  • Make sure the link delivers on expectations
  • Links and headings should be no longer than eight words
  • Avoid marketing hype and focus on what your customers really care about.

You can read the full article here:
Writing killer web headings and links

Flash back? (It never went away… unfortunately.)

I dug up some old research from my filing cabinet the other day. According to a 2003 study 80% of Consumers Hate Flash Intros. At around the same time this research came out I also discovered a hilarious parody of the odious Flash intro. But despite this public bollocking the Flash intro persists to this day.

At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me I have noticed some of the worst offenders are web designers and developers, interactive agencies and graphic designers. By all means showcase your Flash design prowess on your website. But why not let me actively choose to view it if I’m interested, rather than forcing me to click “skip intro” to get to the content I want to see?

“Skip intro” is an acknowledgement that many people find your Flash intro a waste of time. So what’s it doing on your site? There’s no need for an intro at all. Just tell me what I need to know on a normal, fast, efficient, well-designed website. If I decide I’d like to spend my time looking at Flash animations, then I will.

Flash is very effective when used properly. It’s great for Internet-based applications. But I really think it’s time Flash intros went the way of the Betamax video.

PS: Sorry about the pulsing orange button. I know it’s annoying, but I think you get the message!