Web content and the burden of time
If you rush to get content online you'll find it's nearly always longer than it needs to be. It takes time to edit out the words that aren't doing any work. Sadly, web writers often don't spend that time. And users simply won't!
Web users don't want to spend time reading
We spend a fair amount of time watching people use the web. In our usability testing sessions, people often make comments like:
Time is the common thread in these comments. People don't want to waste time reading things that aren't relevant to their current task or goal. They don't want to wade through web pages that look like dense walls of text — it takes too much time. They want the answer to their question as fast as they can get it.
Web writers don't have the time they need for writing
Time is also an issue for staff producing content for their organisation's website. Participants in our writing workshops often tell us that time is their number one problem:
Time and quality go hand-in-hand
A key problem with rushing to put content online is that the content is nearly always much longer than it needs to be. As the quotation from Pascal implies, it takes time to edit and cut out the words, phrases and sentences that aren't doing any real work.
But that's not all that can go wrong. Lack of time can lead to content that is poorly focused, structured, designed and worded.
Poor quality content is harder to use. It takes more time to read and more effort to understand.
The burden of time rests with the publisher
One thing is clear. Web users are not going to slow down. They are not going to work longer or harder to try to figure out what your content is trying to say.
The burden of time rests with the publisher — the person in your organisation who is responsible for the site. They must make sure that enough staff and time are available for content production and maintenance. And they must have resources and processes to manage situations where publication time frames are unavoidably short.
If publishers ignore this, users will ignore the content. Perhaps they will call or email your organisation instead. Some may go elsewhere. Those who struggle on will be frustrated or annoyed. Worse still, they may get the wrong message or make a mistake. Let's hope it's not a serious one.