Nielsen Norman Group: Facts are the key to making web pages more gripping

web pages optimization improving readership

According to studies by the Nielsen Norman Group, one of the keys to getting and keeping user attention online is with fact-rich content, as shown by experiments with two camps of people: journalists and investors.

The Nielsen Norman Group also pointed out that with online users now spending very little time on a website, as shown by an earlier study, getting content across to an audience has become harder than ever. Webmasters are often tempted to publish as much content on a page as possible; they fail to realise that straight talk trumps filler content any day of the week.

Two studies by NNG show clear examples of user behaviour when they search for the facts. The first study dealt with journalists, the second one tested users who browsed through investor relation (IR) pages on corporate websites.

Meticulous with Facts: Journalists                                  

NNG’s first study showed that when journalists were on corporate websites, their main priority was looking for facts, ignoring content that seemed to have marketing slant to it, instead going for more important, sometimes offbeat details. This often elicited a “that’s something new” response, sometimes having to do with facts as mundane as  a CEO’s age.

One one particular test, a journalist viewing the BMW website expressed pleasant surprise in knowing that the company was thorough in publishing information about their safety record. Given the level of decision-making that goes into buying a car, especially an expensive one, the journalist noted that people should get access to such pertinent information; it’s data that’s specific, concise, without a sales twist, and something the journalist would be willing to write in an article.

Likewise, another journalist that viewed the Wal-Mart site liked how the company explained the numbers in their annual report. The fact that the company is upfront with this financial information, and how they a their increase in sales with facts, scores them points, the journalist said.

IR Pages: Compact Facts Take Centre Stage

During their tests, investors and financial analysts wanted to get relevant information about an organisation right from the get go. NNG’s study on investor relations (IR) pages showed that pages with too many links and too little relevant information makes it hard for users to get what they need from the company. Links are alright, but they should only support an overview, not the other way around.

For investors and finance people, that overview should answer questions about an organisations purpose, size, revenue, years in operation and date of founding, headquarters location, and more. This is confirmed by an eye-tracking experiment by NNG.

Facts Reign Supreme

If you’re in the process of building your website content, or are thinking of revamping it, you may want to consider the results of the Nielsen Norman Group eye-tracking research, which shows that users’ eyes are more likely to look at numbers in web content. This is because numbers usually have something to do with facts, and it’s facts that users want to read about.

Furthermore, users want only the facts, and nothing more. Mixing in off-topic facts and information for the sake of being ‘salesy’ or engaging will only work to frustrate your users. At Enform, we believe the key here is to publish not just facts, but facts that are actually relevant to the page they’re in.