Writing for Findability

Jacob Nielsen has a useful (although fairly common-sense) article on Useit.com today about using old words when writing for findability.

This is a useful article to keep in your ammo belt for use when you need to tell a stakeholder why their beloved name or phrase is actually a really bad idea.

In short:

  • Supplement made-up words with known words
  • Play down marketese and internal vocabulary
  • Supplement brand names with generic terms
  • Avoid "politically correct" terminology

This is an issue I've come up against frequently in the development of hospital sites and content. For example, we have an online triage tool that's branded Child Health Advice.

However, that name by itself is not overly descriptive and so when we reference it we try to include a supplemental description which makes it much clearer as to how and when you would use the tool:

Is your child sick? Find out when to call the doctor and when to treat at home.

Useit.com Bows to Reader Feedback?

I also couldn't help but notice that the content on Useit.com no longer stretches the width of the page, making it far more readable (although it's still a little long for my liking).

This is thanks to the fact that the following CSS has been added:

.maintext {max-width: 50em; margin: auto; }

Unfortunately, visitors to Useit.com who are using IE will not get the benefit of this improvement as IE does not support the max-width attribute.

Naturally, there's a fix to the max-width in IE problem — I'm surprised that Nielsen didn't take the time to implement it.

Posted on: August 28, 2006 | No comments

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