Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design > Voices That Matter

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Removing words

Why are so many web pages clogged with words that no one will ever read? Perhaps it’s because, unlike paper, web pages can always accommodate more text, so it costs nothing to add another paragraph or two. Or three.

The extra text is often wasted. Users don’t slavishly read every word. Their eyes skim over pages, picking out the odd keyword or sentence.

Getting rid of text has three benefits:

  • It makes what’s important stand out.
  • It reduces the effort it takes to interpret a screen.
  • It makes people more confident that they’ve understood what’s there.

When you’re hunting for text to cut, be aware of some common hiding places:

Skip the introductions. Often the opening text on home pages and in articles says nothing at all (“Welcome to our web site, we hope you’ll enjoy...”). It doesn’t sound chatty or inviting, it just leaves the reader wondering where the author is heading. Cut the intros and start with a bang.

Delete unnecessary instructions. These are frequently redundant and can be cut completely. Delete text like “Fill in the fields in this form and press Submit to send your application to us.” The page title (“Application Form”) and the contents of the page (a form) are enough to signal the user what to do.

Simplify explanations. Sometimes links have descriptions under them. These can be useful, for instance, when one audience expects the link to be called one thing and another expects it to be called something else. But often, explanations are another source of redundant text. Replace “Product Finder: Answer some simple questions and we’ll find the right product for you” with “Product Finder,” and you’ll save twelve words from a total of fourteen.

Use descriptive links. Links called “Click Here” or “More” sometimes appear under the headlines that describe exactly where they go. Simplify the page by using the headline itself as the link.

  • “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.”
  • —Steve Krug’s Third Law of Usability from Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account