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Just the facts for Web readers

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The Chasers have long admonished advertisers to resist bragging, to avoid dense-looking blocks of type and to eschew prose that's as loose as pocket change. It's good advice for print—even better for the Web, where readers are apt to spend about half the time absorbing a message as they would in print. ¶ Internet readers have little patience for boastful claims that overpopulate the Web. They prefer objective, verifiable statements of fact that they can process quickly. They certainly don't have time for copy that doesn't come to a point. And a Web page that lacks any sense of typographical organization will simply wash past the reader. We have come up with a handful of examples of Web pages produced by b-to-b advertisers that run the gamut from artful and attractive to clumsy and cluttered. We chose to look at landing pages rather than banners, which, like billboards, tend to be concise. Landing pages, while not necessarily promotional, require more writing and more design to make the message accessible and memorable. The landing page of an AT&T ad for smartphone offerings greets readers with 10 lines of undifferentiated type that is difficult to easily scan. Bullets, boldfacing or hyperlinks in the text would make it more scannable for readers who prefer to skip through information. Without any such features, the copy block is much too dense and off-putting. The copy itself fails to engage by opening with this: “HTC takes Windows Mobile smartphone design to the next level with the introduction of the highly desirable and elegant HTC FUZE.” Clichés like “taking it to the next level” and unsubstantiated claims that the product is “highly desirable and elegant” will turn readers off before they get to the message. Beyond that opening blast of bombast, the copy is much stronger thanks to its addressing the reader's interests rather than the advertiser's. More approachable is a patch of text that appears on a landing page for IBM Corp.'s “Let's Build a Smarter Planet” campaign. The copy is isolated on a white background astride an eye-catching graphic. Still, the nine lines of gray type could be made more inviting with a few tweaks. The copy block would be OK for print, but it falls short of the typographic standards of the Web that cater to skip-readers. The copy itself, which describes how an IBM client is building a smarter food supply chain, fails to engage. “... Matiq, a subsidiary of Norway's largest food supplier is developing just that by imbuing their entire supply chain with intelligence.” The copy sounds flat and is grammati- cally flawed because the singular possessive pronoun “its” should refer to Matiq rather than the plural “their.” As part of its “Because It's Everybody's Business” campaign, Microsoft Corp. offers a landing page that encourages readers to access a white paper written by one of its executives titled “Navigating a Turbulent Economy.” The block of copy is appealing thanks to smart use of five bullet points that make the case for reading the article. The bulleted statements are succinct and informative, such as the first in the series: “Examine ways to get the most out of existing information technology (IT) investments, drive efficiencies and manage costs.” Each bullet is introduced with a strong, active-sounding verb that is followed by plainspoken points that highlight the article. Sensible use of typography and clean writing devoid of any hype drive Microsoft's message forward. The best of the lot, in our estimation, is a landing page from SAP. It's a great-looking page thanks to thoughtful design, sharp photography, adroit use of boldfaced subheads and blue-toned bullet points, as well as ample white space. The copy, which invites readers to share some information about their companies in exchange for a free analysis, all but begs to be read. It's concise and is focused on conveying the benefits that SAP can provide a customer. There's no puffery. Our guess is that the interactive call-to-action button in the bottom right of the page marked “Build your free report now” got a ton of clicks. M
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