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Monday 26 March 2007

Text text, boring text

The Poynter Institute has an interesting interview by Guillermo E. Franco, who edits the leading Spanish language magazine El Tiempo online.

He spoke with Chris Nodder from the Nielsen Norman Group about how text usability guidance is evolving (or not) in this era of Web 2.0 and mass broadband. Guidance has always emphasised the centrality of plain text to the user experience — is this changing?

Video and audio are tempting media because often designers feel that they can get their message across better with moving pictures or narration. However, it is still very difficult to search either content type, which means that text is still the primary medium if you care about content retrieval.

In our studies, even teens -- typically seen as early adopters -- were often confused by the steps required to get content to play on their PCs, let alone transferring that content to other devices.

Making text easier to read on a display is just part of the problem. The larger and more complex issue is deciding what to write in the first place.

Reading for pleasure or entertainment is obviously a different activity [to scanning news headlines]. However, I would ask journalists whether they feel that their Web sites are currently used for this purpose. Our research suggests otherwise.

Content creators must avoid the vain notion that Web site visitors care about eloquent prose. Visitors are goal oriented, so they care much more about the ease with which they can extract information from the page.

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