Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
I just came across a certain article on some drupal theming techniques that called itself a tutorial. What’s the problem? It didn’t actually teach (or tutor) anything. It simply gave you some code to copy and paste and told you where to paste it. How does that help?
People aren’t going to learn if you just give them the answers. This happens all the time in the forums –people post a question and someone comes along and gives them the code to paste in. That solves the problem but the poster doesn’t learn anything in the process.
With coding questions in particular I’ll often give people most of the answer, even writing out a step-by-step tutorial, but I won’t post the full code or a link to a working page. This way the user has to put things together themselves and figure out how things work. There was a really great post at Creating Passionate Users called “Cognitive Seduction and the “peekaboo” law”:
In learning, the more you fill things in and hold the learner’s hand, the less their brain will engage. If they don’t need to fire a single neuron to walk through the tutorial, lesson, lecture, etc., they’re getting a shallow, surface-level, non-memorable exposure of “covered” material, but… what’s the point?
(I totally love that blog. So sad that she’s no longer posting. It’s a must read if you’re interested in education and/or software development or something in between).
With the tutorial in question I came out with some samples of the code I would need to do something similar to what I really want to do. It doesn’t help me understand what those variables are doing and how I can use them in different ways. Not a tutorial.
See, it’s a short post for once. Aren’t you happy?
In Jakob Nielsen’s AlertBox this week he talks about intro text. Specifically, “blah blah blah” intro text. You’ve probably seen it. That paragraph that rambles on about nothing. This happens all the time on web pages and it’s a particular indication of the lack of attention to good copy on the web. As Nielsen points out, users usually skip over this text and search for actionable items like bulleted lists, graphics, and links.
I had originally written this post for this site but I decided to try posting it at YouMoz instead. In case you’re not familiar with it, YOUmoz is the user-generated component of the SEOmoz site (my favourite search/marketing blog!). My article on search terms was posted today:
Search Words vs. Company Words: Targeting Long-tail Searches
P.S. My new laptop is here!! Well, it’s at home with Liam right now. I let him open it while I’m at work. Will post about that later
I believe that good writing is really key to a good website. Great visual design, usability, mark-up, and SEO aren’t going to be nearly as effective if the writing is bad. However, this is something that falls through the cracks on a lot of websites. Ideally you’d have a copywriter or editor to take care of all your writing needs, but most small projects don’t have the resources to hire a writer (if they even consider it in the first place).
So whose job is it then? Read more…
Gerry McGovern had an interesting article the other day about the difference between search words and marketing words:
The words that people search with may not always be the words they would like to read when they arrive at a webpage.
The word “cheap” is a good example here. You probably don’t want to brand yourself as “cheap”. “Cheap” brings connotations of poor quality and bad service – something you probably want to avoid. Words like “affordable” or “low-cost” would be more more appropriate. But you can bet that people will be using the word “cheap” when they search for sites like yours.
Mr. McGovern, unfortunately, stops just when the idea starts to get interesting. Read more…
I just came across an interesting article about writing for an international audience. There are some eye opening points in this article. It’s sort of obvious that EFL (English as a foreign language) people will have problems with ambiguous terms and colloquialisms. What I hadn’t thought of is that long sentences and complex grammar also confusing.
The article also points out some problems encountered by people who learned to read using a non-latin alphabet (such as native Chinese or Russian speakers). This means that text needs to be very clear and easy to read – short line lengths, good spacing, reasonable font size, and no funky fonts.
I didn’t realize that there were so many ways to be ambiguous in the English language!