Context Not Optional

09 Jul 2010

Jolie O’Dell:

We’ve been conditioned to believe that he who publishes last, loses.

He who publishes last doesn’t get the credit for “breaking” the news. He who publishes last doesn’t get that first flood of traffic from news aggregation sites and the social web. He who publishes last is a “me too” pansy with no news-gathering skills whatsoever.

And so we rush, we compete, we “win.” But looking back over our vapid posts with little information, no wit, no context, no invitations to ruminate, how hollow those victories seem.

Read the full post at Context Not Optional.

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Writing Microcopy

08 Jul 2010

On the small, contextual instructions that often appear inside or next to web forms:

Ironically, the smallest bits of copy, microcopy, can have the biggest impact.

Microcopy is small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word. It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact. Don’t judge it on its size…judge it on its effectiveness.

via Writing Microcopy « Bokardo – Social Design by Joshua Porter.

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Researchers have known for 80 years about a symbolic connection between speech and size: back-of-the-mouth vowels like the “o” in “two” make people think of large sizes, whereas people associate front-of-the-mouth vowels like “ee” with diminutiveness. Marketers can use this effect to make consumers think a discount is bigger or smaller than it truly is…

via Drilling Down – Vowel Sounds Influence Consumers’ Perception of Prices –

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… Modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for the words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious.

via George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946.

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Influence can be quiet, understated, and wielded with grace. Influence is NOT jumping up and down, begging for people to click on stuff so that they, too, can find the gatekey for their own path to feeling important in the online fishbowl.

via How Fast Company Confused Ego with Influence | Brass Tack Thinking.

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A great Brain Traffic post, from March 2010:

A simple way to grab your users’ attention is by using personal pronouns in your web copy. Why? Personal pronouns reflect the way real people write and speak.

Not using personal pronouns forces you to repeat your company’s name throughout your website. This approach creates awkward sentences that are tedious to read and to write. The repetition can also set off keyword stuffing alarms. At the very least, your website ends up sounding unnecessarily formal and stuffy.

Read the full thing at: Personal pronouns: It’s okay to own your web copy « Brain Traffic Blog.

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Louis Rosenfeld:

I plan to use these to get my client to think strategically about the challenge of developing a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and multi-regional information architecture.


  • When a user visits an organization’s web site, should he expect to access content in his native language?
  • Which languages are most common to users?
  • Does that organization operate in its own “master” language?
  • Which languages have the greatest strategic value to the organization? Which would simply be nice to support? Which aren’t a priority at all?
  • Does the information architecture’s native language (e.g., label lengths might be quite different, or might not translate at all) translate well into other important languages? Are there other semantic issues to consider?

Read the full list/blog at: Bloug: Globalizing an information architecture.

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Registration By The Numbers

  1. Eliminate registration unless there’s a compelling reason
  2. Reduce registration to an absolute minimum
    1. Infer info from other data entered by user
    2. Infer info from other sources, a la TripIt
    3. Push back against excessive demands for data from other departments in your company
  3. Develop an irresistable “value proposition”
  4. Use Staged Obligation when necessary
  5. Don’t throw away any info the user has entered
  6. Support AutoFill

via How to Achieve Painless Registration.

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But I also worry that a never-ending cycle of optimization can become a crutch, a place to hide when you really should be confronting the endless unknown, not the banal stair step of incremental optimization. While Yahoo was optimizing their home page in 2001, the guys at Google were inventing something totally new.

via Seth’s Blog: The non-optimized life.

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Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals

Immortals do not mindlessly repeat keywords in the hopes of tricking Google into giving them an improved PageRank.

Nor do they recycle lame corporate brochure copy.

Or use empty adjectives like fantastic, exciting and unique.

via David Ogilvy shows how to write for the web.

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