I attended an introduction to PLONE training course to gain the appropiate ‘web skills’ for managing and updating websites. PLONE is a Content Management System used by the University of Leicester on their website. The training introduced me to the work that goes on ’behind the scenes’ to allow for the production of a functioning website.
The Writing for the Web training shifted the focus from website management to web content. Prior to attending the course, I was unaware of the importance taking a different approach when working with websites as it was common practice to see information from print media transferred in its orginal layout directly onto webpages. As far as I knew, very few changes were necessary - how wrong was I! In fact the example mentioned above was cited amongst the top, most detrimental actions carried out by web authors. Web writing etiquette is slightly different to ‘off-screen’ writing in that certain omissions that would seem improper on a printed document are acceptable, and often encouraged, when addressing a web audience.
I progressed through the course and began to realise just what I really meant when I described some websites as being ‘better’ and ‘easier to use’ than others. ’Better’ websites were clearer, easy to navigate around, but more importantly, they were telling me the information that I needed to know very quickly. Unlike print media where you are willing to invest time in reading the latest issue or edition (often from cover to cover), websites act as information sources that can be quickly accessed to find out more about a topic or an activity. So it is important for a web author to bear the user’s intent in mind, designing a website that provides the most efficient way for presenting the information users want to find. Bad websites repel good traffic as interested users, possibly attracted to the relevance of a particular website title from among a list of search engine results, quickly move off the a site when it becomes too difficult and time-consuming to find the information they require.
Examples of eye tracking results when users view a webpage were used in the training to illustrate just when people look the most. This tended to be the top left of any webpage so one should always try to put the most relevant set of information or links in that area. Here’s an example:
The tips and tricks were valuable and I’ll be trying to impliment them all as best I can. I suppose that means I have no excuses for a poorly-designed webpage in future!