Break It Up

Rumble in the Jungle

Ponder the following three scenarios:

1. An alum reads about the research of Fordham’s faculty member x in a reputable media source and wants to learn more about the faculty member and the project. He enters “Fordham faculty member x” into Google or into Fordham’s website search box and lands on a page with pictures and bios of an entire department’s faculty in alpha order.

2. A business professional looking to expand her career opportunities wonders whether she would need to take the GRE to get into Fordham’s MBA program. She enters “Fordham MBA admissions requirements” into Google or into Fordham’s website search box and lands on a page about the MBA with program details, required courses, course descriptions, degree requirements and admissions requirements.

3. A professor from another university knows that Fordham offers a thought-provoking annual lecture on topic x. Professor enters “Fordham topic x lecture” into Google or into Fordham’s website search box and is directed to a page where lecture on topic x is listed with 5 other events in a calendar listing.

It is highly likely that in each of these scenarios, the user in question did not find the information they were looking for because although they had landed on the right page, they couldn’t find it right away. Their curiosity waned in the few seconds we had to engage them. They went to look at NYU’s MBA program. They missed out on this year’s lecture.

More Words, Less Reading

Users skim webpages looking for the content they want. They do not read every word. In fact, research indicates that while a reader will read about 50% of the text on a page that has 111 words or less, the more words you add reduces reading to about 18%.

In other words, the more words, the less reading that happens.

Write for the Web

Writing effectively for the web entails composing concise, scannable text that can be skimmed quickly, i.e.:

  • write short paragraphs that contain just one main idea
  • use meaningful headings and subheadings
  • use bulleted lists
  • highlight keywords in subheads and hypertext

Break It Up

In addition, consider breaking up long pages into several smaller ones.

This may seem counterintuitive. It wasn’t so long ago that we worried about “burying” content, worried when certain information was more than “x” clicks from the home page, but a few things have happened that make these concerns less valid.

1. The vast majority of our web users have high-speed internet access. Loading pages does not take the time it did when we were all on dial-up.

2. Search engines have made our home page far less relevant. In fact, many users will never see our home page because a search engine will take them directly to pages deep within our site. We have to consider every page a landing page (yikes!).

3. People are becoming more sophisticated search engine users. We all have experienced that morass of web pages we’re confronted with if we input a vague search term, so we have learned to enter precise terms and we expect precise pages.

Thinking about our scenarios at the beginning of this article, this means each faculty member has her own page, admissions requirements has its own page, and the lecture has its own page.

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