February 13, 2008

Usability and writing merge? Yes!

Go read Turn Usable Content into Winning Content.

Here is someone talking about both brand and language, about both brand and usability, and about emotion.

Posted by bullwink at 11:15 AM

August 3, 2006

Which term/topic is best?

Can't decide if people are more likely to look for "social work programs" or "social work degrees" when looking for an M.S.W. degree? Writing a story about memory loss and wonder what to focus on?

Give Overture's keyword selector a try. The tool is designed to help you choose keywords for online ad campaigns, but it can be useful for other purposes, too.

Here's what I found for suggestions for "M.S.W.":
Searches done in June 2006

Count   Search Term 
1880 msw
274 msw program
186 online msw degree
178 msw degree
166 msw logo
146 msw online
128 online msw program
94 accredited msw program
88 2006 msw
88 msw jobs

Now I have some data to suggest that I should use the term "program" rather than "degree." Since the numbers are so close, it might be best to use both terms where possible. If the degree program in social work offers any online courses, I might want to lead with that information because it looks like there's lots of interest. Adding a note about acreditation might also be wise.

Here are recent searches regarding momory loss:

Searches done in June 2006 
Count Search Term
11241 loss memory short term
7054 loss memory
1368 lipitor loss memory
534 cause loss memory
441 cause loss memory short term
278 depression loss memory
176 alcohol loss memory
153 loss memory menopause
152 loss memory sudden
150 long loss memory term
136 loss memory statins

This suggests that people are interested in short term memory loss--no surprise there. But I would not have known that people associate memory loss with Lipitor. So I might be sure I write about statin drugs and any connection they have with loss of memory. (And I think I'll read up on this since my 83-year-old mother takes Lipitor.)

I don't doubt that the results from Overture's suggestions can also mislead. But for those of us who operate with a lack of market research resources, this gives us some dat worth concidering.

Plus Overture is fun. I put in my last name expecting to see "rocky" and maybe "natasha" as suggestions. Those are there, put so is "pet supply." I might have a long lost relative selling pet food or there might be a dog toy out there I need to buy. And there's "bullwinkle family fun center." I've got to go there for my next vacation!

Posted by bullwink at 1:55 PM

December 1, 2005

Recent UIE articles

Enticing Users with Content
Christine Perfetti writes about where to feature advertisements and promotions. While most of us don't have ads, we do often have content that's important to a director or dean that they want to see featured. Is the home page the place to do that?

The 8 Types of Navigation Pages
Jared Spool details what he sees as the eight types of pages that direct users. He goes into more detail about what he calls galleries at Galleries: The Hardest Working Page on Your Site.

Here are what I see as examples of the types. These are just pages I'm familiar with. I wouldn't claim them to be the best (or worst) examples.

Content Pages
Recreation, Park, and Leisure Studies - College of Education and Human Development

Fields of Study - College of Education and Human Development

Academics : University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
I guess that means all of us must belong to one of the following "stores": Academics, Admissions, Arts & Culture, Community Connections, Employment, Health & Medical, Libraries & Computers, Research & Scholars, Sports & Recreation, U of M Administration

Gallery-level Search Results
Search Results: University of Minnesota

Department-level Search Results
The free Google search doesn't allow for this. I'm not familiar with any such search results at the U.

Search Entry Page
People Search : University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (This is actually the main search page.)

Home Page (Landing pages)
MInnesota - A Great Place to Live

I'd be really interested in knowing which pages at the U you consider to be the best of each of these types.

Posted by bullwink at 12:36 PM

July 8, 2005

Nice handout

Website content & usability

Eight simple guidelines and the first one is the hardest: use clear and simple language. That's why I going to stop right here. Short is good, too.

Posted by bullwink at 4:35 PM

June 29, 2005

A college example, for once

I'm a big fan of Jared Spool and was excited to see that he has written a column using a college site as an example. That happens so seldom (although sometimes higher education sites are used as examples of how to mess something up.)

The Right Information looks at a the Web site for the Department of Nutrition at Penn State's College of Health & Human Development. Spool asks important questions about how to encourage your audience to view/read the information they need, how to present it in a way that's comprehensible to an outsider, writing links that users are confidant in selecting, and simply communicating well.

Unfortunately the article doesn't address the issues of working with people who insist on using internal language, how to communicate clearly on the Web something no one can communicate clearly to you about in person, or how to obtain the money for testing. But I would never ask someone outside of higher education to take on a task like that. That's what our little salon is for.

Which leads me to an issue I struggle with. Spool states, "Users like getting their first click right. Our studies consistently show that users don't like bouncing back and forth between different links on a page." I need to help students choose between clicking on a link for an M.A. in a program area or a link for one of two M.Ed. options in the same program area. I try but I'm not at all confidant that I succeed. If someone would like to take a look at http://education.umn.edu/CI/Art/default.html and give me some ideas, I'd love to hear them. I give users a little bit of information about targeted audiences for the three degrees, but nothing about other major differences such as tuition, the ability to get into a Ph.D. program, or the likelyhood of receiving an assistantship.

Posted by bullwink at 4:57 PM

June 24, 2005

More reading

Unwritten Internet Rules
clickz.com, June 24, 2005

This is more of a pet peeve list, but good reading.

Posted by bullwink at 5:06 PM

June 14, 2005

Content Strategy

OK, I'm copping out here, I know. I'm going to post a link to an article I haven't yet read. But I don't want to lose it and I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. So here 'tis.

What Is Content Strategy and Why Should You Care? (Series Intro)
It's written by Amy Gahran which might be reason enough to read it.

It will eventually have the following sections:

  • Why communicate at all?

  • What is content, and what can it do?

  • What are your goals?

  • Which effects should your content cause?

  • Audience: Who can cause those effects?

  • Know and honor your audience

  • Becoming findable

  • Showing your many sides

  • Listening, interacting, and serendipity

  • Appreciating the real value of content

  • Crafting YOUR content strategy

Posted by bullwink at 4:56 PM

May 17, 2005

Degree capitalization

The question came up at the web writing salon today about whether or not to capitalize the term "master's degree." The answer from the University style manual
is as follows:
Capitalize abbreviations of degrees and use periods; do not capitalize spelled-out names of degrees.

bachelor of arts degree
master’s degree
the doctorate
Great meeting! Thanks.

Posted by nkubazew at 4:30 PM

May 9, 2005

Too large? too much?

I'm quoting him again: Gerry McGovern's latest New Thinking:

"Quantity is generally a dangerous thing to pursue on the Web. Even if you can maintain the quality of the content, if you increase the quantity, you inevitably make it more difficult for people to quickly find what they need."

I certainly have that problem. Especially now as more people are interested in seeing their own interests reflected on our site. I can easily give everyone a page if they produce the content. But is it a good idea? If we want the site to primarily serve three audiences, then should we be putting up information for a sixth and seventh? Should we consider other ways of reaching that audience?

"Most people I meet who have created overly large websites have done so because they want to help as many people as possible. They publish content because they think that somebody might be interested in reading it at some time. These are noble objectives but they nearly always lead to hugely inefficient websites."

Is this an issue for us as editors? If you see that viewers are getting distracted by too much information and too many choices, what do you do? If you see that you can't keep up with updates or that contributers (who you once begged to publish) aren't keeping up, what do you guys do? Do you leave that up to someone else? Does your CMS bug people electronically? Does that work?

I once took an entire program's site and placed it elsewhere on the server (the impound lot) so it was no longer publicly available because their content was so old. They didn't seem to mind. Probably because no one had responsibility for that content in their job description. Eventually new content was produced and several pages just dropped.

We have a statement in our policies that applies: "Pages or sections containing inaccurate or outdated material may be removed by the college Web communication manager. Removals will be preceded by notification to the publisher." Do you have policies in place to handle this?

Posted by bullwink at 2:05 PM

May 2, 2005

Killer content

Gerry McGovern published a good article yesterday on why Web managers need to be out on the road talking to their readers. Do any of you have the time to do that? Would any of your managers even allow it?

I try to talk with students when I have the chance and to my friends who are considering returning to college or who have children who will soon graduate. I learn something useful from every conversation but have never set up any kind of schedule. And I very rarely talk to alumni or administrators or even other staff who I know have to use our site. Kind of depressing.

I was particularly struck by his comment "in many organizations there isn't anybody who can differentiate between killer content and filler content." We've spoken about filler content. That's easy to obtain. We don't have to write it. And people believe in it. But what exactly is killer content?

Is anything on my site killer content? Probably the most popular page in terms of search results in an essay "The Purpose of Education" which was written by a student and published in our alumni magazine. I assume that the readers are people who have to write a similar essay. So it gets lots of hits but I doubt that it encourages anyone to read further in the site or to improve their opinion of our college or the U.

Killer content would be what? Something that answers a person's question so they don't have to make a phone call or a visit? Something they like enough to forward the URL to a friend? A page that makes a prospective student excited about the prospect of attending the U? A page that informs a legislator's aid about the resources we offer the state? A page that gets an employee to the correct and updated form?

Posted by bullwink at 9:09 AM