Text still rules

This is a really excellent reminder of a web basic, which is unfortunately often forgotten as websites add and add and add and in the process become bloated.

“Think of your Web audience as lazy, selfish and ruthless,” said Michael Gold, West Gold Editorial principal quoting usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s apt description of today’s impatient, task-oriented Web audience during his remarks at a recent ONA panel. “Web audiences are on a mission—they’re task-oriented.”

Text matters on the Web from Martin Ricard on Vimeo.


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Ari Herzog

Great video and goes to the heart of why I configure inbound gmail messages to NOT display images or html; I opt to click a button to view things. I’d rather see text…and it’s amazing how many spam-like email broadcasts assume I have the html button default checked. Ditto when subscribing to newsletters; I choose text.

Paul Canning

Same here on gmail.

Elsewhere I’ve had some negative reaction on this! From designers (at least that’s what I assume they are). People forget that although image use can be very powerful online, most of the time it plain isn’t.

eg I saw a great post the other day eyetracking headshots which showed an incredible difference if you had the face facing something you wanted to draw attention to, like a call-to-action. If you don’t choose that sort of facial image then the image adds absolutely nothing to the content.

People also often think that style cannot be simply and present content well without gratuitous image use.

What this video is saying is that if you detract from a user’s task when that is to read and digest something then you are not serving their needs.

Personally I’m starting to hate the ‘bloat’ which is happening on many websites, Huffington Post is a good example.

Ari Herzog

Bloat. Indeed. I picked up my 24″ x 18″ campaign yard signs yesterday. Initial feedback is precisely what I intended: simplicity. My name, a horizontal line, and “city council.” No “councillor-at-large” text, no “vote for” or “elect” modifying text, no slogan text, no large font url text. My name and the office I’m running for.

Last night, it sat across a road from another sign with that bloat. Guess which was more effective for a driver whizzing by with 1 to 3 seconds to look?

Same concept online. If the web visitor stays on a homepage for 30 seconds, keep it simple.


Totally agree….the trick is it is always easier said than done. For example, I should probably cut five features on the home page to get rid of the clutter but not sure what to cut.

Paul Canning

Why don’t you run some discount usability tests at the next gathering where a variety of govloop members are present? If I was there I’d love to help as they’re fun (yes I am a usability geek) :}

Niva Kramek

Exactly. I found it ironic – and annoying – that a post all about how text is king was delivered through video. I read much faster than anyone speaks and get impatient with any kind of video trying to tell or teach me something. I also never have my computer sound on and won’t hear what you’re saying anyway. I’ve started avoiding sites that rely too heavily on video content, because I don’t find them accessible or enjoyable, and I hope the video trend goes away soon. Videos – and photo slideshows – are very overused. It takes more effort to explain something clearly in text, but it’s worth it for your web audience.

Thumbs-up for mentioning this important topic, but thumbs-down on the delivery.

Paul Canning

Hi Niva. I understand your point but video does have its uses – in presentations or training for example – and can if used well be a good medium through which to convey information.

FYI – I have written extensively on text issues, here’s some example posts, just before govloop :}


Terry Weaver

We need to keep in mind that while folk such as Niva can chose how to get their information, people who rely on assistive technology, captioning or audio description need the text, period. Sometimes it isn’t about usability but instead about not excluding anyone from the conversation – which also impacts folks without broadband