Sunday, April 26, 2009 televises death of Bea Arthur

Writing for the Web has its own special rules, most importantly that you must be concise. Writing headlines for the Web can be even trickier. I was a little surprised to find that ABC News televised the death of Bea Arthur. But it said so right on the screen: "Watch: Bea Arthur Dies..." Sounds kind of creepy!

Update, 4/27/2009

Amazingly, the topic of today's Alertbox by Jakob Nielsen is how hard it is to write headlines for the Web, and how the BBC excels at it:

World's Best Headlines: BBC News
Summary: Precise communication in a handful of words? The editors at BBC News achieve it every day, offering remarkable headline usability.

It's hard enough to write for the Web and meet the guidelines for concise, scannable, and objective content. It's even harder to write Web headlines, which must be: short (because people don't read much online); rich in information scent, clearly summarizing the target article; front-loaded with the most important keywords (because users often scan only the beginning of list items); understandable out of context (because headlines often appear without articles, as in search engine results); and predictable, so users know whether they'll like the full article before they click (because people don't return to sites that promise more than they deliver). For several years, I've been very impressed with BBC News headlines, both on the main BBC homepage and on its dedicated news page. Most sites routinely violate headline guidelines, but BBC editors consistently do an awesome job.