Some thoughts, rather than a tech question this week…
One of the things that struck me in this week’s readings was the notion of scanning versus full-text reading. Writing for the Web’s authors emphasized the tendency of computer users to scan webpages and Web-based writing rather than read the text in full. I agree that most of us likely scan a page before investing time reading it, but I am shocked to discover that only 16% of Web users read the entire text. Then again, I believe this number reflects a study done on only two websites, both affiliated with the Sun Science office which may not require a full-text read.
I agree with the authors’ suggestions on improved navigation and site search by including keywords, headers, lists, image captions, and embedded meta-tags. However, I fear that their emphasis on text reduction contradicts much of what Rosenzweig and Cohen write in Collecting History Online and may even prevent potential Web contributors from sharing their own stories digitally. A potential contributor to a website may be disillusioned by the notion of Web 2.0 if asked to limit their text because studies show that people generally read less online than in print. Such contributors may decide that to abridge their story loses its value and may opt not to contribute at all.
I argue that different types of sites attract audiences more willing to read word-for-word. I think it is important to keep the suggestions offered by Writing for the Web in mind, but not to lose sight of the mission of each individual website. Often that mission cannot be achieved without lengthy contributions from site visitors and serves little purpose if not read in full by its audience.