Write better web headlines

Visit DailyCamera.com and pass your mouse over a headline — you get more information about the story. Do you think this helps readers or annoys them?

Good usability practice is, don’t hide navigation information. Does this break that rule?

Amy Gahran uses the practice as a jump off for a post about good web headlines.

Online headlines should be intuitive, not cryptic, vague, or leading. That is, simply by reading a headline you should be able to grasp what a story’s about. A well-crafted online headline provides the reader with sufficient information and incentive to decide whether to click a link to read the story.

Recently, I was thinking about subheads. Subheads are used in newspapers to help explain headlines that are creatively written to fit and sometimes, therefore, vague. On the web, there should be no need for subheads. Every headline should tell the story, and any headline that requires a subhead or a story summary is a bad, bad headline. The practice of just shoveling print headlines onto the simply must stop.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged by . Bookmark the permalink.

5 thoughts on “Write better web headlines

  1. Fine on the first point, but on the second — I fully realize why print headlines are used on the web — I’ve been doing this stuff for a long time. But it must stop. No more excuses. Publishing the web site needs to be job #1 for all newsroom staffers. No excuses. And if you have a bad CMS, get a new one. No excuses.

  2. Glad my article was useful to you, Howard.

    Personally, I don’t see the point in publishing anything online if it’s not going to be effective and usable for your target community, and also support your business goals.

    In other words, if you don’t intend (or can’t be bothered) to do web-friendly publishing, why bother putting your content online at all? It’s just a waste of resources, IMHO. Bad business.

    – Amy Gahran

  3. And if you have a bad CMS, get a new one.

    I agree wholeheartedly. A lot of newspaper CMS are not even as good as their blogging CMS.

    I believe there would be more agreement on this issue in newsrooms if the online product were taking in as much profit as the print product. Of course, by then it would be too late.

  4. I like the idea.

    I must (MUST, stamps foot) protest at the characterization of subheads. I use them to highlight a second point or focus in the article – if there is one. If there’s not, no subhead.

    I’ve never used it, that I can remember, to clear up the vagueness of a headline.

Leave a Reply