Tip: First 2 words of links must tell all

Links: first 2 words matter most

When writing link-text for a link that's part of a list, extreme editing is required.

The first 11 characters matter most. That's all people "read": about 2 words.

An OK link in a list (green links are just pretend, OK?):
Blossom Party Wellington: 20 September, waterfront
First 11 characters: Blossom Par.

A bad link in a list:
Come to the Wellington Blossom Party!
(First 11 characters: Come to the.)
Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, April 6, 2009 is brutally frank about links in lists: people typically decide what they're about after reading 11 characters. That's the first 11 characters, my friend, not any old 11 characters. So make them count.

First 2 Words: A Signal for the Scanning Eye
Testing how well people understand a link's first 11 characters shows whether sites write for users, who typically scan rather than read lists of items.

Our newest usability study in preparation for the new Writing for the Web 2 course tests how well users understand the first 11 characters of a website's links and headlines. For example, we'd represent this article by the "First 2 Wor" string. (Note how the guideline to show numbers as numerals lets me squeeze more meaning into this tiny stump of text.)

Leave a comment: