All posts tagged “internet

The Internet is a Shit Hole

Recently I’ve been teaching a person older than me (60+) how to use a computer for the first time as well as how to get to grips with using the internet and email. While it’s been a test of all my patience, one thing is for sure, that trying to show someone how to search for something is a nightmare because every result is filled with ads and filler, and more than half the time the actual content doesn’t start until way below the fold. Just imagine how crazy that is for someone who is still struggling to use the scrollbar!

After so many years of using the internet, you learn to just filter out all the noise and just quickly scann each page to see if it’s relevant or not, but sitting with someone new to all of this is staggering. They just don’t know what they’re looking at or where to even go for what they really want. Search results are down the pan and content providers are just optimising for revenue. Content sites are 90% filler and nothing but subtle attempts to direct you to other pages.

The internet is just a ghetto full of shit.

Saying what needs to be said

The hardest part of creating a website isn’t writing the code or setting up the servers, it’s writing exactly the right thing to convince someone to sign up. As the creators of our own sites, it’s nearly impossible to put ourselves into the mind of a new visitor. We come up with great sounding headlines and slogans thinking they describe our products perfectly, when in reality they leave visitors scratching their heads and us with a high bounce rate.

“It does exactly what it says on the tin” – Ronseal

When writing your headlines and follow-on text, always ask yourself “How?”, “What?” and “Why?”. Those are the questions users will be asking themselves as they skim your site. Remember that you have only 10-20 seconds to capture their attention, so forget fancy and clever headlines and write concise and practical ones.

I believe an example of where perhaps things could have been improved was on a previous site I built contraswap.com.

The copy is perfect, but is it right? At first I would read it and think “Yeah, this describes our product perfectly.” and then after a period of time spent not working on the product, re-reading it made me question what the site actually did and left with questions. Ok, the why is that I’ll gain more readers, but what is an advertising barter exchange and how do I use one. You could argue that the answers are obvious, but I’m playing the role of a naive visitor. I heard a great quote at SeedCamp this year, that it’s not that users are stupid, it’s just that we haven’t earnt the right to their attention yet. Introductory text needs to allow me to not have to think. I even wondered if people even realised that it was an online tool.

A good example of a landing page is 37signals’ Backpack. The why is a better organised business. The how is by keeping everything in a centralised place. The what is that it’s a web-based tool. The copy is simple and reading-level low so that it doesn’t require much thought process to ingest.

On the surface this stuff seems easy, but believe me, it’s really hard. Always question the things you write or better yet, get someone else to read it, but make sure they have no prior knowledge of what your product does. Ask yourself “How?”, “What?” and “Why?” every time you write something your users will read.