How users read on the web

How Users Read on the Web is an article from 1997 on writing style, formatting and language – and research on what worked best for websites. It’s old, but I’d still put stock in it, just from how tired I still get after reading hyped, flashy, marketing copy.

Here are some highlights:

People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.

[W]e found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word.

Credibility can be increased by high-quality graphics, good writing, and use of outbound hypertext links.

Users detested “marketese”; the promotional writing style with boastful subjective claims (“hottest ever”) that currently is prevalent on the Web. Web users are busy: they want to get the straight facts. Also, credibility suffers when users clearly see that the site exaggerates.

Check out the table with test results for how changing writing style improved usability. Their theory of why it happened hit home for me:

Our conjecture to explain this finding is that promotional language imposes a cognitive burden on users who have to spend resources on filtering out the hyperbole to get at the facts. When people read a paragraph that starts “Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions,” their first reaction is no, it’s notand this thought slows them down and distracts them from using the site.

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6 ways to make your website tablet-friendly

A checklist of simple things from UX Magazine:

When a website exhibits “tappiness,” it’s easy—or even delightful—to use on a mobile or tablet device. Tappiness encompasses smart use of space, text that is easy to read, logical interaction clues, and large touch targets that allow visitors to navigate with confidence.

Read: The Pursuit of Tappiness

Tl;dr:

  • Bigger buttons with more whitespace around them.
  • Make links more obvious, without relying on hover states.
  • Bigger font sizes.
  • More padding in nav menus (to create bigger hitboxes).
  • Greater margin, padding and line-heights for better readability.
  • Bigger form fields with more whitespace around them.

Designing good UX for old people

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“We’ll use your site, but first we have to trust you.”

http://uxmag.com/articles/simple-and-secure-sites-keep-boomers-happy

UX Mag offers quick tips on how to design appropriate web user experience for the growing Baby Boomer market.

Key takeaways:

  • Educate your Boomer user before asking them to dive in.
  • Be reassuring – remind them how secure your site is, offer a heads up of what sort of information they’ll be expected to give – be nice, hold their hand.
  • Clear, simple, fairly static design is best – give lots of margin for shaky-handed, tired-eyed error.
  • Big text

When bad design happens to good content

A quick, short read on good practise for styling text:

And something more recent from Smashing that uses more big words:

Text tricks for when you cbf with design

The title is sort of misleading.

Making a site look good with just text is a form of design. And there are simple enough guidelines out there that we can easily take ‘programmer design’ to the next level.

http://ilovetypography.com/2008/02/28/a-guide-to-web-typography/

Tl;dr:

  • Maintain strong colour contrast that’s easy on the eyes
  • Consider text size for readability
  • Use text size, alignment, colour and style to show content hierarchy
  • Include whitespace and negative space to draw attention to your text