Users think waiting around for downloads and search results is boring and a waste of the time.

More than half the participants mentioned this specifically. “I love to get into an internet site and get out then. I do not like to lull around,” one participant said. Someone else complained about slow downloading of graphics: “I want to see one good picture. I do not want to see tons of pictures. Pictures aren’t worth waiting for.”

Study 1 employed a novel way of measuring participants’ boredom. Participants were instructed to choose up a marble from a container on the table and drop it into another container each time they felt bored or felt like doing another thing. Together, the 11 participants moved 12 marbles: 8 marbles while waiting around for a typical page to download, 2 while waiting for search engine results to show up, and 2 when not able to get the requested information. (Participants would not always remember to make use of the marbles once they were bored). After Study 1, we abandoned the marble technique for measuring boredom. Instead, we relied on spoken comments in Study 2 and a normal subjective satisfaction questionnaire in Study 3.

Conventional Guidelines for Good Writing are Good

Conventional guidelines include carefully organizing the data, using words and categories that make sense into the audience, using topic sentences, limiting each paragraph to at least one main idea, and providing the right amount of information.

“You can’t just throw information up there and clutter up cyberspace. Anybody who makes a webpage should take time to arrange the given information,” one participant said.

When searching for a particular recipe in Restaurant & Institution magazine’s website, a number of the participants were frustrated that the recipes were categorized by the dates they appeared in the magazine. “this won’t help me find it,” one individual said, adding that the categories would make sense to the user if they were kinds of food (desserts, for instance) in the place of months.

Several participants, while scanning text, would read just the first sentence of each and every paragraph. This suggests that topic sentences are important, as is the “one idea per paragraph” rule. One person who was simply wanting to scan a long paragraph said, “It is not to simple to find that information. They should break that paragraph into two pieces-one for each topic.”

Clarity and quantity-providing the right amount of information-are very important. Two participants who looked over a white paper were confused by a hypertext link at the bottom of Chapter 1. It said only “Next.” The participants wondered aloud whether that meant “Next Chapter,” “Next Page,” or something like that else.

Additional Findings

We also found that scanning is the norm, that text should really be short (or at the very least broken up), that users like summaries therefore the inverted writing that is pyramid, that hypertext structure can be helpful, that graphical elements are liked when they complement the written text, and that users suggest there is a task for playfulness and humor in work-related websites. Each one of these findings were replicated in Study 2 and tend to be discussed in the following section.

Because of the difficulties with navigation in Study 1, we decided to take users right to the pages we wanted them to learn in Study 2. Also, the tasks were built to encourage reading larger quantities of text instead of simply picking out a single fact from the page.


We tested 19 participants (8 women and 11 men), ranging in age from 21 to 59. All had at the least five months of experience making use of the Web. Participants originated in a variety of occupations, mainly non-technical.

Participants said they normally use the Web for tech support team, product information, research for school reports and work, employment opportunities, sales leads, investment information, travel information, weather reports, shopping, coupons, real estate information, games, humor, movie reviews, email, news, sports scores, horoscopes, soap opera updates, medical information, and information that is historical.

Participants began by discussing why they normally use the Web. They then demonstrated a website that is favorite. Finally, they visited three sites that individuals had preselected and performed assigned tasks that required reading and answering questions about the sites. Participants were instructed to “think out loud” through the entire study.

The three preselected sites were rotated between participants from a collection of 18 sites with many different content and writing styles, including news, essays, humor, a how-to article, technical articles, a press release, a diary, a biography, a movie review, and commentary that is political. The assigned tasks encouraged participants to read the text, instead of search for specific facts. The task instructions read as follows for most of the sites

“Please go to the following site, which is bookmarked: site URL. Take several moments to read it. Go ahead and have a look at whatever you want to. In your opinion, what are the three most significant points the writer is wanting to help make? We will ask you some questions. after you find the answers,”

We observed each participant’s behavior and asked several questions about the sites. Standard questions for every single site included

  • “What can you say may be the primary purpose of the site?”
  • “How would you describe the site’s design of writing?”
  • “How do you would like the way in which it really is written?”
  • “How could the writing in this site be improved?”
  • “How easy to use could be the website? Why?”
  • “How much do you like this site? Why?”
  • “Have you got any advice for the writer or designer for this website?”
  • “Think back to the site you saw right before that one. Associated with two sites, which do you like better? Why?”

Simple and Informal Writing are Preferred

This aspect was created by 10 participants, many of whom complained about writing that was difficult to understand. Commenting on a movie review in one single site, another person said, “This review needs a complete rewrite to place it into more down-to-earth language, in order for just anybody could read it and understand.”

Some participants mentioned they like informal, or conversational, writing much better than formal writing. “I prefer informal writing, because I like to read fast. I actually don’t like reading every expressed word, sufficient reason for formal writing, you must read every word, and it also slows you down,” one person said.