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Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing online? Put it at the top.

This is the most important message in this article, so it is placed here, at the top, where you're most likely to see it.

Put the message you most want to communicate at or near the top of your web page.

Marketing expert Roger C. Parker notes in one of his designtosellonline newsletters, that "There are no readers! There are, however, 'skimmers'. Everyone is in a hurry. No one, other than your spouse or your mother, really wants to read your message."

To that list I would add my spouse and mother.

All you need to do to bring this lesson even more clarity is to observe your own web browsing behavior. If you're normal, when you land on a web page, you want answers to three simple questions:

Have I arrived at the right place?Can this business be of benefit to me?Is it worth my time to dig deeper into the site to learn more?

Usually, you answer these questions in a few seconds. Then you either click away or stick around to learn more.

The absolute masters of this approach are the folks at Apple. For example, take this page for the MacBook. At a glance, you have answers to all three questions. Before you've read a word, the graphic design (layout, image and typography) alone tells you you're in Apple Land. The first things you do read are benefit statements (more speed, power and battery life). The subheads are welcoming and enticing - they make you want to know more.

To this I would add the effectiveness of redundancy.

Many years ago, I had a job selling stereo gear. A demonstration technique that made it easier for my customers to discern differences in sound was summed up in the little triplet:

Tell them what they're going to hear.Let them hear it.Tell them what they heard.

You see a similar technique used in the Apple site. The first two subheads (on fast graphics and long battery life) are reiterations of features stated in the headline:

apple puts it at the top

Accordingly, I say again: Avoid putting your "bottom line" at the bottom line.

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