7 - Optimize for Clarity

Clarity means that messages are understandable, cohesive, and accurate - the user is able to get your intended meaning and there is little room for misinterpretation. This is more difficult than it might seem, as site operators are familiar with their offerings and speak in industry jargon, whereas prospects are familiar with their needs but not your product offerings.

Clarity is likely one of the most important factors in success - customers will not respond to something they do not understand, and attempts to baffle customers with sophisticated and complex language succeed only in driving them away.

When a visitor arrives on your site, he wants to understand your value proposition and will be attentive to it - but also has a limit on how much mental processing he will devote to gathering this critical detail from the information he has provided. If you optimize for clarity, he will be able to get a clear picture, quickly, of what you can do for him today. If you do not and the content is hazy, he will not work very hard to sort it out before leaving.

Clarity is largely achieved through the way information is presented: the amount of information, how it is organized, how it is phrased, and how it is designed (as design is as much as communicative method as copywriting - it is faster, but communicates less detail.)

Information Hierarchy Clarity

The hierarchy and taxonomy of information pertains to a single page as well as to the entire site: how your site is organized (pages are organized into sections) determines whether the user can find his way to the page that contains the information he wishes to find.

In a broad sense, information of architecture (IA) deals with how the content of a site is organized and presented for the user to navigate at every stage: from the home page to a section, from a section to a page, and within the pages in each step of a task flow.

On the level of a site, consider the way that the individual pages or organized and linked. He refers to the IA site diagram as a method of mapping the site (EN: but misses that the IA is a document that deals with the way in which information is catalogued and organized, not how it is accessed by the user - it's a common mistake to assume the two are the same. Much of what he has to say expounds on that mistake, so I'm not preserving notes.)

On the level of a page, information is also archtected to arrange and organize the content in a meaningful way. A "wireframe diagram" is a simplified sketch that shows where the main pieces will be arranged, which typically lacks the elements of design or the final copy. His advice is to keep wireframes basic to avoid "preoccupation with design elements" in a document that is not intended to depict design.

Design Clarity

A web site is a functional object that exists for a purpose. With that in mind the concept of "design" does not mean artistry, but is more in the nature of craftsmanship that makes the product simple and elegant to use. It guides the user through the content, emphasizing what is important to the task he is performing.

(EN: I'm skipping the rest of this section, as the author doesn't understand design and makes a complete mess of trying to describe it. What he set out to suggest is that the way a site is designed can assist or interfere with the user's ability to perform a task and that testing various design approaches to determine which decisions support the desired outcome is worthwhile. He should have stopped there.)

Call to Action Clarity

The author doesn't define "call to action" very well - but it's the entire point of a page from the site operator's perspective. An ecommerce site is provided to sell merchandise, so the calls to action on each page enable the user to take a step that gets them closer to that goal. In essence, the call-to-action is the button - and some sites make it very hard to find.

The size, color, placement, and other design elements of a call to action influence a user's interest and willingness in interacting with it. At the very least, they should be able to see it at a glance and know how to activate it. It's not always a matter of making the CTA a bigger, bolder, and more colorful button - the difference between a successful CTA and a less successful one are often subtle, and sometimes you take a good idea too far.

The author testifies that in his experience, he has seen double-digit improvements in conversion rate life merely by experimenting with the wording of a CTA button. (EN: I've personally seen nearly triple-digit improvements doing the same.)

Copywriting Clarity

In spite of the claim that people do not read content online, it's been found that they do, and that the content of a web page has a very strong influence on their behavior. More people will purchase a product if its description is understandable and, more importantly, speaks to the way in which the product meets their needs than if the content is obtuse or provides insufficient detail.

From there, the author fires off some random tips: