I was going about my regular morning on the internet, as you do, and I found this example of a constant problem I see – the difference between how a content creator (company or organization) will name something, vs. how a user will search for it. What comes to your mind when you see:
If you’re like me, you probably make this face:
To be fair, in search results the full page title is: Availability guide | Foodland Ontario
But on the page itself, while the logo informs that name, the page title is divorced from that sole indicator as to what this page is about.
Here’s my point. I actually really like this page overall. It is slick, appropriately uses a hero image (what a wonder!), minimal text and an appropriate graphic to easily show what foods are in season when (which is what “Availability Guide” apparently means). And this page does appear readily in Google results even though I search something completely different each time I want to get to this page. But why make it more difficult than it needs to be?
This title reeks of multiple approval levels. I would love to see what search results actually drive people to the page, but I suspect it would be something like “What foods are in season” or “is X in season”. Changing the page title to “What Foods Are In Season In Ontario” or even “What’s In Season: Ontario Food Availability Guide” something similar that was (and this is the crucial part) informed by the search queries people are using, it would simply this page and drive additional search results with minimal effort.
Keep it simple – if you can’t tell what the page is about from your page title, your page title needs work. If your page title doesn’t consider how the user will be looking for this information, your page title needs work.
Now back to my grocery planning!
It’s #aneventapart time again! This year, I picked An Event Apart Chicago to attend because I’ve never been to the city and because the A Day Apart workshop was put on by Karen McGrane and Ethan Marcotte. I would listen to them teach how to dust properly, but the workshop actually focused on Responsive Design, which I’m about to undertake with my main client. If you haven’t been to An Event Apart, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I learn more there than I do all year. I took eleven pages of notes, but here are the top takeaways I will be able to immediately use:
- “The customer is no longer King – they are Dictator.” – Gerry McGovernThis was my first time hearing Gerry McGovern speak, and he was excellent (plus the accent adds +10 to the entertainment factor). This quote echoes another one I heard last year at An Event Apart Orlando – your users will decide how they want to use your site; you have no say. I see this all of the time with my clients – the internal expectation is that a user will follow your navigation from top down, yet so many simply google the business name and the search term and bypass your information architecture altogether.
It’s amazing how many clients seem to want to hide the meat of their content inside a lot of words, buried far down the page, or deeper in the IA. This is something I encounter with students as well – there’s an urge to really spend a lot of time and characters setting up the conclusion, instead of leading the strongest information. Don’t make your users work for the information because they won’t – they will simply go to Google.
- “Responsive design won’t fix your content problem.” – Karen McGraneHallelujah. During An Event Apart Chicago’s A Day Apart, Karen walked us through some high level steps to take when moving to a responsive design. She suggests that a content reduction of 60-75% isn’t uncommon, and I completely agree. So much content makes it to the site as either an archive function (put it there just in case) or without ever putting it through the test of “is this valuable to the user or does it just check a box for us”.
Doing a content audit like this is hard work, and will no doubt result in a lot of testy conversations with internal clients. In much the same way that an editor becomes a therapist, so too does a digital content specialist. My personal suggestions here are to be sensitive to the attachment many clients feel to their work (it is theirs, after all) and to really find out what their goal is for the content. When you take the time to really hear what they want to achieve, you can make a lot more headway by suggesting the best ways to help them get there.
- “Your customers’ top tasks are often not the same as your organization’s top tasks.” or Top Tasks vs. Tiny Tasks – – Gerry McGovernHow often do you find yourself in this situation? You’re spending all of your time posting information to your website that you know no one will look at, while the pages with the highest traffic remain unchanged or even looked at. For my main client, this came in the form of spending so much time adding information to pages that occupy less than 0.01% of the overall traffic, while the mobile platform, of which 73% of my users were hitting, received virtually none of my attention. Our top traffic pages (excluding a forced routing page) have not been touched in four years.
I’ll be the first to say this is crazy.
I’m betting I am not the only one who has experienced this. It is my primary goal right now to try and right the balance in this equation, and what I think will be my strongest weapon is the simple idea that right now, we’re yelling into empty rooms. I find there’s a real fear clients have of stopping a practice because of that “just in case” reason, but really, it’s just a waste of everyone’s time to shout at people who aren’t there.
Bonus quote: “Imitating paper on a computer screen is like tearing the wings off a 747 and using it as a bus on the highway” – Karen McGrane
Amen. Thanks, An Event Apart Chicago.