Sunday, February 04, 2007

Good Headings help, bad Headings hurt

Research results for Web page headings ...

"I've been on the road recently, teaching my 'Editing that Works' workshops to teams of web content providers in a government department. 'Choose what to say,' I urge them. 'And do it like this:

- apply headings to your text

- review the headings to see whether they're any use to your readers.

- cut out the bits that readers don't need

- and don't bother doing any editing until you've done your cutting.'

So we spend a lot of time in the workshop writing headings and cutting. Then writing more headings that reflect what we're left with. Do you see a bit of a heading theme developing here?

SOME RECENT RESEARCH ON HEADINGS
So I was brought up a bit short when a friend asked me my opinion about a recent article in 'Technical Communication', the journal of the Society for Technical Communication. Bartell, Schultz and Spyridakis, researchers at the University of Washington, tested the effects of headings in comparable print and online materials.

They chose similar articles on two types of arthritis, prepared four versions: no headings, low frequency (one heading approximately every 300 words), medium frequency (every 200 words) and high frequency (100 words). To give you a benchmark, we've just hit 204 words in this 'Corner'. So in the high frequency condition, we would have already had two headings. I've had one, which makes it 'medium frequency'.

The team chose to ask engineering students to read the articles, then answer questions on them without referring back. The task was deliberately set up as

(a) a reading task where the material would be both unfamiliar and not very interesting and

(b) a 'reading to learn' task, where the objective is to master and remember material."    (Continued via Usability News)    [Usability Resources]

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