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Usability Issues
5 Factors to influence your web site design
By Aran Kay

5th March 2003

Do you know the differences between writing copy for the web and writing copy for print?

Some of the answers will go against your intuition and against cultural norms. But, these facts detail how people read on the web.

There's no use in arguing against them.

Instead we should embrace them and use this knowledge to our advantage. Here's what the facts are and how they're going to affect your website.

1) Where Do Eyes Go First When Your Homepage Comes Up?
Contrary to what you might think, it isn't towards the graphics or photos like in print advertising. Instead your prospects eyes will first go to the copy. Specifically your headline and sub-heads. Therefore, your first chance to engage the prospect is through copy. Not graphics.

Seeing as most web users look at a web page for only 3-15 seconds before deciding whether to stay or move on. The fact that they look at copy first has massive implications for your website. Fancy graphics won't make a prospect stay on your website. But a really strong headline and strong sub-heads will.

2) How Much Of Your Copy Do Users Actually Read?
The fact is that online users, on average, read 75% of the length of any given page. This is big news because most web pages will have the important conclusions, calls to action, and order information on the bottom 25% of any given page. That's a big no-no. Because it will never get read.

You have to have your call to action and order information presented early on your web page to ensure it gets read.

3) Why Do Most Banner Ads Produce Poor Click-Through Rates?
1.25 seconds. That's how long an average user will look at your banner ad. That's just enough time to perceive one image or 6 words (based on college student's average reading speed of 350 words/minute).

Therefore, banner ads that have animation, taking 4-5 seconds to run through a cycle, or more than 6 words must be reconsidered. However, if you really must keep your animated banner ad because "it just looks so cool!" I would suggest that you at least keep your company logo visible throughout the entire animation sequence.

4) Why Is Reading Online More Frustrating Than Reading Print?
Turns out that reading from a computer screen causes a person's reading speed to slow by 25% when compared to reading print. That means reading long copy can be very frustrating online. Break up the copy to help users through.

Have a few one line paragraphs.

Use headlines and sub-heads to summarize information. So users who are tired of reading word-by-word can quickly scan the rest of your document.

5) Are Your Web Page Users Not Getting The Whole Picture?
If you haven't made your web page truly scannable, prospects to your site may only be getting part of the sales message. Only 21% of online users read word-by-word. The other 79% scan a web page headline to headline. Sub-head to sub-head. Picking up only the larger, bolded or italicized copy.

Your sales message has to be read both by scanners and word-by-word readers. Therefore all your major selling points, benefits, call to action and order info must be in easily scannable type.

Otherwise your website will only generate 21% of the sales it could be. And for the money you put into your website, that's not good enough.

So, if online reading is so different from offline reading. Clearly your web copy has to follow suit. Take home message? Make sure your website is performing on all cylinders. Have a professional web writer write your website. It will save you money in the long run.
 

Copyright © 2002 Aran Kay, All Rights Reserved.

Author Information:
Aran Kay
copywriting@professionalcopy.ca
http://www.ProfessionalCopy.ca

Aran Kay is a marketing consultant and freelance copywriter with experience working for Nintendo, Direct Energy, Kellogg's and more. He has written numerous marketing articles and includes a selection of them on his web site. www.ProfessionalCopy.ca is also your source for "The 52 Best Marketing Web Sites." It's a great resource and yours FREE just for visiting his web site.

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