Chapter 6: Breaking up and Organizing Content

Writing for the Internet is a huge change from static documentation. To be effective, it offers an interactive conversation with the visitor. While maintaining this conversation may require more time and attention, the payoff can be satisfied and repeat visitors. There is no more writing, publishing and walking away, like in traditional documentation. The Internet makes the visitor an active participant. This means that to retain visitors and keep them coming back, we have to give them a reason to want to participate in the conversation.

By “thinking information, not documentation,” (102), we create dialog with the visitor. Traditional documentation placed the onus on the recipient as to whether they read it, or not. Often times, documentation is referred to only in small bits, rather than by reading the information presented from start to finish. Similarly, creating conversations in web sites allows the host to present information in useful bits that encourage the visitor to participate. It places the responsibility on the host to engage the visitor. We can engage visitors when we “don’t hog the conversation” like in documentation, but rather we offer the “right information in the right amount.” (102)

Redish identifies seven ways to create conversations and satisfying interactions with visitors. These ways include: (1) identifying the questions people ask when they visit a site. (2) Identify and dividing by the topic or task that creates the reason for a visit. (3) Divide the site by product type. Make sure there is enough information, without overwhelming the visitor or conversation. (4) Make sure the information type keeps the conversation moving forward, and that it the site is divided by information type. (5) Identify the different types of people who are visiting and place information according to people types. (6) When necessary, divide information by life events or life stages, in order to provide the right information for the right visitor. (7) And, if there are steps to accomplishing a task, clearly identify the time or sequence for visitors. Don’t make them guess.

Finally, we need to know “how much to put on one web page” (113) This can be identified by answering the questions: “What does the site visitor want? How long is the page? What’s the download time? How much do people want to print? And, how do I adjust for small screens and social media?” (113) Use PDFs sparingly and with good reason (119), but only when appropriate. By answering those questions and providing information with a purpose, we successfully create a conversation with visitors that encourages them to stay and return.

 

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