Monday 25 March 2013

Six unwelcome words and phrases

Welcome mat

Every pixel of your website is precious. But we often waste space with filler words and phrases that make our sites look tired and don't help our users.

The words I'm shooing off my pages are:

1. Welcome

There's nothing more cheesy than a 'Welcome to my website' message.

It's old-fashioned and naff.

Instead of: 

Welcome to the Members’ area
Make your heading: 
Members’ area

2. Note

'Note' is a waste of space when used as a heading or in bold at the beginning of a paragraph. Readers scanning the page will only see the word note and will miss the subject of your Note. 
Note: cheques should be made payable to the Fund of Elizabeth.
Cheques should be made payable to the Fund of Elizabeth. 
This also applies to NB.

3. Please (excessively and ungrammatically) 

Be polite but don’t tie yourself in knots. Give straightforward, direct instructions.
Readers are reminded to please take their bags with them. 
Can quite easily become:
Please take your bags with you.
It also makes you sound desperate if you have to plead with your users:
Please download the booking form.
Instead, make the first word the instruction. You'll also be front-loading the action keyword and making your text easier to scan:
Download the booking form.

4. Thank you

Say thank you when someone has actually done something. For example, after a web form has been submitted, a thank you message can confirm that they have completed the task, and can tell them what will happen next.

But there’s no need to thank people just for coming to your website:

Thank you for visiting the organisational intranet. We hope you find it useful.
Use the space to highlight some top tasks or features that the user might be looking for. They have come to your site to do or know something, not to read inanities.

5. On this website you will find...

If your content and navigation is any good, you can drop this phrase.

Instead of:

On this website you can find out about the role of dental nurses, get information on how to train, and the career options available.
Get your teeth into some decent menu headings and links:
  • What dental nurses do
  • Training
  • Careers
Don’t waste your homepage repeating the menu links. Highlight something fun or useful instead. 

6. Coming soon

Never load a blank page and say that the content is on its way.

What a horrible disappointment for your user. And when is soon, anyhow? 

Strip out the wasted words

All these phrases and words are really easy to fall back on - like FAQs - when you are in a rush or can't be bothered to have a fight with a content author. But they're all unhelpful bits of padding. Let's show them the door.

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