Don’t exhaust your readers’ stamina

Is your company blog as engaging as you think? According to research by Jakob Nielsen, probably not.

In a study of corporate blogs’ front-page structure, Nielsen and his team found that in blogs where each posting’s full content is posted on the front page — so users don’t have to click, which in theory is a good thing — readers made it through only the first article. Why?

Explains Nielsen:

If your first article doesn’t interest users, you lose them by “using up” all their interest as they wade through that first topic.

Blogs that included summaries fared better, which readers scanning through all the items shown on the relatively short pages reviewed (10 and 5 items .

But the format that worked best of all was AOL’s hybrid approach, where many postings were short and shown in full, while longer articles were summarized. In this case, the user scanned through 11 postings.

The takeaway? Don’t waste your readers’ stamina by forcing them to read long posts in their entirety. Use summaries — unless you’re an exception to the rule with highly engaged readers. (How to know? Check your site analytics for regular revisitation patterns.)

Read the full article:

Corporate Blogs: Front-Page Structure (Jakob Nielsen’s AlertBox, August 9)

An open letter to audiobook publishers

Dear Ms. or Mr. Audiobook Publisher,

I am writing to alert you to a major flaw in your products that is causing pain, suffering, and potential death to legions of your customers around the globe.

I am talking, of course, to the horrible preponderance of mispronounced words that litter your offerings. Especially those offerings that are read by the books’ authors.

While commuting on the traffic-choked California freeways, I tend to leaven my journey by listening to audiobooks. Which is a lovely way to pass the time. Until a jarring mispronunciation shatters my idyllic reverie, causing me to cringe, shriek, or even jolt uncontrollably in my seat — which, clearly, could result in an unfortunate vehicular reaction. Even if such intrusions do not result in a traffic snafu (certainly a potential fatality), they cause me to grit my teeth, roll my eyes, sigh loudly in frustration, or occasionally blurt out “Moron!” I am certain I am not alone in these afflictions, so you can reasonably infer this pandemic extends to all your customers with even a modicum of literary finesse.

Here is a partial list of the erroneous spoken language that has so disrupted my life (I shall not name titles, in an effort to spare the wicked).

  • “defibulator” (defibrillator)
  • “excape” (escape)
  • “Lo-ation” (Laotian)
  • “athalete” (athlete)
  • “eck cetera” (et cetera)
  • “heighth” (height)
  • “nucular” (nuclear)
  • “pronounciation” (pronunciation — somehow this is fitting, isn’t it?)

You can save countless lives and alleviate untold angst if you could just please, please, hire an audio editor whose sole purpose in life is to ensure that the written word is not bastardized in spoken language.

Sincerely,

C.C.

PowerPoint, you are my nemesis!

Why is it that my creative side is limited to words?

I am, without a doubt, a crappy visual designer. I would love to be one of those arty types who can sketch out a fabulous cartoon on a napkin, mock up a fresh new website design in an  hour, or come up with a fabulous logo treatment on a dime. But I’m just not.

Me? I get flummoxed when choosing what font to use in a presentation.

And speaking of presentations, it’s there that I really get stuck. All of mine just suck. Any engagement achieved through my presentations is solely due to my personality and depth of knowledge, and not at all to the presentation itself.

I work mainly in PowerPoint, which is a horrible tool for me. It gives me too many options that I never know how, or when, to use. Do I put in a clever photo? Where should I place it? Do I want to include a cool effect? Ooh, I can change the background color? And how about using some slide transitions? You get the gist.

Even when I’m massaging plain text I’m an epic fail. I’m the queen of bullet points, which is great for web copy but the kiss of death with PowerPoint. Everything is boringly linear. My PowerPoints look pretty much like a summary document up on the screen, not like a fun, interactive, grab-your-attention-and-don’t-let-go experience. And I know the latter is possible. I work with some ridiculously talented designers whose PowerPoints are more entertaining than a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

Yes, I’ve tried reading the books. For example, I read Cutting-Edge PowerPoint for Dummies. It showed me how to use the way-too-many-functions that already flummoxed me. Then I was told Slide:ology was the answer. And boy, it was inspiring! Look at all those super-cool slides that creative people have built! But it didn’t stick. When I picked up my mouse, I was back to bullet-pointing Helvetica.

The latest advice to come my way has been, “Switch to a Mac! Then you can use Keynote.” I think Keynote looks fabulous, but I don’t think it’ll solve my lack-of-visual-talent problem. It’ll just be another tool to enable my failure. I’ve heard that Prezi might be the way to go — it sounds easy and is supposed to “create astonishing presentations”. I’m all for anything that can help, so maybe I’ll give it a shot.

And if it works out, maybe I’ll put together a presentation explaining it.