2022 Nonprofit Technology Conference - Tear Down That Wall Of Text

2022 Nonprofit Technology Conference - Tear Down That Wall Of Text

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Well, welcome everyone to Tear Down That Wall of  Text- A Web Writer's Workshop. Thank you so much   to NTEN and the 22 NTC. I'm really hoping that  2023 will be in person. This is my 20th year as   a member of NTEN. That's a long time and I  would like for it to be in person someday again.

Next slide. "Beep," for those old enough  to remember the beeping noise in school   slide progression. That is what I'm going to use. I'm Johanna Bates, co-owner and  co-principal of DevCollaborative.  

We build websites exclusively for  non-profits in WordPress and Drupal. Clayton, do you want to introduce yourself? Hi, I'm Clayton Dewey. I'm the product owner at   DevCollaborative so I focus on content  strategy and user experience design.

Hi everyone. I'm Michelle Lineberger. I am the  manager of strategy and operations at the Social   Innovation Forum which, is a non-profit that's  lucky enough to work with DevCollaborative. Thanks Michelle. Let me just go over a little bit of housekeeping,  the session details. We have a collaborative notes   doc and it's in linked to from our Socio page,  which I just put in the Zoom chat. Please feel   free to use that and I will be putting a link to  the slides there after the presentation. Sorry,  

I was going to do that while we  were having technical difficulties,   but I I just put a link to the collaborative  notes doc in the Zoom chat as well. At the end of the session, there is a  survey evaluation for your feedback.   We and NTEN really do take that feedback   to heart. So please do take the time to fill  that out if you're able to. We appreciate it.

A quick overview of our session today. Clayton and  Michelle and I are going to go over some of the   key concepts in writing for the web; things that  if you pay attention to even one or two of them   when you edit or review or write content for the  web it's going to be better. We're going to move   through that fairly quickly because we're hoping  to have at least 15 to 20 minutes at the end to   live workshop a piece of content here on the call  and to take any questions that you might have. So if you're feeling brave today and you have a  wall of text non-profit web page that you would   like to share during this presentation  please feel free to put it in the Zoom   chat as well as any questions that come up  and we'll be addressing those at the end.

If everyone's feeling shy and  nobody has a piece of content,   we do have something that we can use and we are  going to be using real examples from our work and   Michelle is going to talk about the process of  rewriting her organizational content as well. So take it away Clayton. Yeah and I'll add one other note about the  recording, so I checked with the NTC staff   and the recording will be made available  eventually to us as a file that we can   then post on YouTube. So we we could trim that  part out if you all wanted to share in session   but didn't want it living in perpetuity.  Either way. It's totally fine with us.

So yeah, so let's start with how people read   on the web or how oftentimes  people don't read on the web. Rather than reading word for word and line  by line, like we do with our favorite novel,   we're oftentimes hunting for answers. Yet  much of online content is still written   for print and that assumption that people are  going to be reading all of the text on a page. So here's a typical example of this. This is from  a client of ours, Bay Area Legal Services. They  

are a non-profit and team of lawyers who offer  free legal help to people in the the Tampa Bay   area and they came to us and knew that their  site was making people feel a bit overwhelmed,   frustrated, disoriented with  their legal issue that they had. Here's a closer look at that. Of course, the  design is outdated and so that contributes to   that feeling that this information is dense and  hard to understand, but we're also seeing it's   very text heavy and just a fun way to date this is  you know if you're not finding what you need just   email us at BALS dash info at BALS.org with the  subject line "more info." It's as simple as that. So they wanted to update their website so that the  information they had online was something that was   initially a helpful, reassuring experience for  people and so we worked with them and together we   said, "Tear down that wall of text!" and  replace it with icons, relevant pictures,   headings, a modern design, reassuring  color palette, concise and plain language.

As a result, traffic is up, time on page is  up, people coming with their first questions   to Bay Area when they call the hotline are  coming more prepared because they've gotten   some of the information that they need  on their situation from their website. So   that is part of the power of writing for the web. Let's dive in again to how people read or don't  read on the web. If people are hunting for   answers, there's a few different patterns  that come up. One is called the F pattern   because as you can see, if we're scanning headings  and then generally starting on the left hand side   of text for languages like English that read  left to right, it makes a vaguely F shape.

In this example, this is a video of eye  tracking software. The circle is where   this person's eyes are on the page and so  as you can see, they're hopping around from   keyword to keyword looking for information. In  this case, they are reading the specifications   of a camera that they're thinking of buying.  Rather than seeing that circle move steadily   left to right, line by line, it's hopping  all over the place hunting for answers. There's a few other patterns that people use,  all with very fun names. We've got the layer  

cake, where we're scanning headings. We've got  the spotted pattern, which is a lot of what you   saw in that earlier video, where you're just kind  of hopping around the page looking for keywords,   links stand out to our eyes, digits  standout to our eyes. There is the   marking pattern, where you pick a particular  point on the page and start scanning down.   The point being, there's different patterns  but all of them are skimming and scanning.

There is one important exception  to that, the commitment pattern.   This is where you are reading everything on  the page. This happens if you're reading a text   that's at a challenging level. Maybe English is  a second language, maybe it's an academic paper   or it could also be because you have a high  trust in the source and you want to read it   carefully and thoughtfully.  Another is technical writing.   If you're a web developer and you're reading  how to implement a new web development feature   or if you're following a recipe or maybe some  kind of fix-it guide, following instructions.

Still, a lot of times we do that skimming and   scanning first and then settle  into this commitment pattern. Since we're hunting for information, we want  to give those hunters an information scent.   Examples of these are titles, headings,  lists, bold words, emphasized words.   One thing is when you're writing links  it's helpful to write what that link is   taking you to and what you're doing there so  rather than a link that says, "click here"   stating "read our annual report",  "download this toolkit," etcetera.

The good news is that when  we do this everyone benefits.   People using screen readers, people  where English is a second language,   it's easier to translate, it's better for search  engine optimization, it's better for all readers Now that we've established some of  those universal best practices for   writing on the web, the next thing  that will really help improve your   writing and improve the engagement of  your content is keeping your audience   in mind. A common tool that we can use to  think about our audience is the Persona. A Persona is a fictitious, yet realistic  depiction of the key audience groups that   you have. In the case of Bay Area Legal Services,  they have three key audience groups- the client,   who's got a legal problem, the pro bono lawyer,  who's looking to volunteer and the donor,   who wants to donate to Bay Area so they can  expand the legal help to give to people.

All of them have distinct needs. All of them have  distinct kinds of vocabulary that they're coming   with, background information they're coming  with, so different pages on the site will be   more important to different audience groups  and so you should be writing accordingly. One thing that we oftentimes do is we overestimate  the literacy level of those who are coming to   our site. As you can see with this chart,  even just writing at an eighth grade level   you're only reaching 50 percent of the US  population and that can shift up or down depending   on your constituents, but in the nonprofit world  where we're serving people who are under-resourced   or at a certain disadvantage that's oftentimes  even more pronounced, so keep that in mind. A lot of us also have a global audience  so be aware of idioms, figures of speech   that might not translate for people or it  might be difficult to understand initially,   which leads us to a similar issue -  jargon, which I'll let Johanna talk about. Yes, I've been writing nonprofit content   for the web since 1999 and jargon has always  been a thing that has been there and it's great   to question whether any jargon you're using  makes sense for your audience and of course   sometimes it will, but it's just really great  to question the jargon that you're using. Every  

community has jargon. Think about the tech  community, which certainly has jargon. The   non-profit community certainly has jargon and  your organization probably has internal jargon   and often it's a short-handed way we talk about  things with each other when we're in a community,   but it's important to know that even if you think  people can understand it they may be glazing   over or feel excluded or not understand what  you're saying if you're using too much jargon.   Jargon is so prevalent in the nonprofit  sector that, "next slide, beep,"   that Tech Soup has a non-profit jargon  generator that is really fun. I ran it   the first four times and I got some great stuff  here. "Achieve configurable community engagement." "Cultivate community-centric funding sources." "Pioneer network-centric triple wins."

My favorite, "synergize a  transparent sustainability." Yet it is great for long passwords. Excellent  comment. This should be your passwords,   not a random string of text. Synergize. What  does it mean? I don't want to know. Okay,   moving on. Next slide. Clear writing is  great writing. This is true everywhere and   it's certainly true on the web. When you're  using jargon or longer words or any words is  

it understandable outside of your organization  or niche? Do you need to reach people outside   of your organization or niche? Are you striving  for better inclusion with your website content?   Jargon can be a form of gatekeeping. Anyone who's  ever walked into a room full of developers talking   in developer code talk knows how that can  feel, including myself, who is a developer.   So just be be mindful of inclusiveness and  use jargon as a checkpoint for that and   are there simpler or clearer words you can use?  Simpler writing is easier to translate, whether   someone is using Google Translate on your site or  whether you have a staff translator or a freelance   translator who's translating your content, in  using simpler words that will make that simpler. For the rest of this presentation we're  going to focus on two main things that   you can zero in on to improve your writing  on the web. One is using plain language and  

Clayton and Michelle are going to talk more about  that. As well as the principle of show not tell. All right, so we are working with DevCollaborative  to re redesign our website and as we're going   through that process we took the opportunity to  refresh some of the content on our web pages.   So this is what we started with,  which is on our About page. The Social Innovation Forum provides a  unique combination of capacity building   and network building to create positive social  change in Greater Boston. We actively connect   supporters, funders, investors  and volunteers and practitioners,   non-profit and social business leaders to  build productive relationships focused on   growing social impact. Founded in  2003 as a program of Root Cause,   SIF incorporated as an independent nonprofit  organization in 2015. So that's quite a mouthful.

What Clayton really helped our team do is  say, "What do we actually need to say?" and   so he introduced us to to a tool called  the Hemingway Editor, which tells you   what grade level or you know reading level  your text is reading at. You can see this is   at a postgraduate level so you would need a  Masters or PhD to understand what's going on   and I think this is really common for non-profits.  Speaking for our organization and probably for   many of yours, you're a really small team and  everyone's doing everything and so the people   who are writing grants are also the people who  are updating and building the website because   that totally makes sense as an overlap for skills  and because no one has time to do anything we're   doing a lot of copying and pasting so we're  copying things that we wrote for a grant and   we're putting it on our website, even though you  know funders probably represent a third of the   people that are visiting our website. There's  a lot of non-profit staff members or leaders   who are visiting our website and you know they're  skimming for information because they're pressed   for time and they're trying to fill out other  grants and figure out if our program is a good   fit for them and they don't have time you know to  read and say, "Oh I need a PhD for this, I'm gonna   spend time sitting with this about page." They  really need the answers quickly, so this isn't  

really a good fit for you up to two-thirds  of the people who are visiting our website. Yeah and it can be a bit intimidating thinking  about how and what are you going to say instead   and one piece of advice is to think again to your  audience and think what would you say to them in   person. If I was face to face with a non-profit  leader and they asked me, "So what's the Social   Innovation Forum about?" I might say something  like, "Well we connect non-profits with funders   and we work in Boston. We also help non-profits  with our accelerator, capacity camps and alumni   network." So that's a great way to just think  about how would you say this in plain language.  

If somebody were to come and ask me and I had  given that original pitch you know their eyes   would probably start glazing over by sentence  three. So here's an example of just using to   the point plain language. The other thing that  with all kind of machine-generated tools there's   going to be a limit there. I mean we see here that  it's saying that it's a grade 10 reading level and   it'd be nice to get it down to a grade 8 or grade  9 and this is where jargon comes into play again. Michelle has a good story on that and  how to consider what words to use.

So we when we were editing down this about  paragraph to this couple of sentence,   we talked about the word that was sending it up  a little higher in the grade level readability   was non-profits and accelerator and capacity  camp, those kinds of words. We played around   with changing it to something like, "We help  change makers," or words like that. What we talked   about internally is that none of us could decide  what change makers meant and so this jargon was   appropriate because the people who are visiting  our websites will know what our accelerator is   or you'll be able to see from reading more about  the program. They'll know who the non-profits are,  

they know who the funders are and so this  jargon felt appropriate for this section.   When we edited it all down, one of my co-workers  was like, "Oh no, we're losing so much depth. We   do so much and how can we reduce it down to this  much?" It's sort of like that writing principle of   "Kill Your Darlings "of we all want to shove  everything that we know about our work into   a couple of sentences, but you'll just end up  with with something that doesn't make any sense. So really we thought about how can we just convey  enough that people will visit our website or click   another link to go to the programs page and  learn more about our programs. We don't have   to shove everything into one paragraph, which  brings us to that show not tell principle.  Here's an example of what the the about page could  look like with that updated concise language.  

In this case, rather than two paragraphs of text  explaining everything that the SIF does, we have a   concise statement here. Then you can explain what  the Social Innovator Accelerator Program is here.   It's six months of consultation leading to a pitch  video, prospectus and presentation to influential   funders. What's the alumni program? It's an online  community of non-profit leaders that are helping   each other. This is where we can embrace the  layered, interactive nature of the web and  

websites and linking off to further information.  Once you click through to the Social Innovator   Accelerator page then we can go into depth more  about what that consultation looks like, what   are some of the outcomes that other non-profits  have experienced by going through that program.   We're you progressively  disclosing information at a time. So far we've spent most of our time  focusing on the written word.We  

did want to spend a little bit of time  here talking about rich media because we   do want to be bringing in some of those other  interactive pieces of conveying information. Video is great for emotion,   when you're using it be sure to use closed  captions and have a transcript. That's good   for screen readers and for SEO and for just  reinforcing that information for people.

When it comes to images, try to  avoid stock photos if you can. We   can sense when something is staged  and it's always better to use genuine   photography. If you're using images include  a caption if you can if it makes sense and   definitely include alternative text  for screen readers again and for SEO. Now we'll talk about convincing your  stakeholders to buy in on this process. Yes. Stakeholders. We all have some. You may  have heard things when you're like hey we   really need to revisit some of our content we  need to focus on rewriting our content you may   have heard things like, "We don't have time."  "We have more important things to do." "The  

website reads well to me." "Larry writes  the web content and he thinks it's fine,"   or my favorite, "The website needs  technical and visual design whiz-bang   instead of a content rewrite." Someone  thinks you need a JavaScript animation   engagement tactic when the reality is that  the words that you are using on your website   nine times out of ten in a non-profit context  are the most important thing on your website. So, how do you convince stakeholders? The main  tactics I recommend are to remind them that they   and the audiences that you're serving are not  the same people. You can show them evidence.   What do analytics and user research  say about your content? What pages are   most popular on your site? What pages does your  organization wish were more popular on your site? If you find a problematic  piece of content on your site,   identify that and then think about the  audiences that you're trying to serve and   ask these three questions. So go to your  stakeholders with your content and say,  

"Hey stakeholders, remember these people? This  is who we're trying to reach with this content." And then ask the three questions, "Who is this  content for?" Hint, it's for those people that   we just reviewed. "What do they want?" and  "What do you as an organization want them to   do?" What are your business goals? And the  sweet spot for your content is going to be   in that place that overlaps between what  you would like users to do on your site,   the things that you would like them to get from  your content and where that crosses over with   what they are seeking. What they need.  There's a wonderful video about this   put out by the Nielsen Norman Group that  I've linked to in the resources slide.  

It's really short and it's really clear so  I encourage you to give that a look later. It can be overwhelming if you have lots  of walls of text on your website and you   might wonder where do I start?  Clayton, where do they start? Some good places to start are pages that are  getting a lot of traffic, but have poor conversion   or have a have a lower time on page than you  would expect if they were really engaging   with the content. Pages that have high  bounce rates where people are coming to   the page and then immediately leaving, not  going elsewhere on your site as you expect. If you've run any usability tests, that's a  really great way to identify pages that are   maybe confusing or overwhelming to  people. This again is an opportunity  

to embrace the nature of the web and the  nature of content management systems where   you can change something and you can change it  again if you need to. That's also helpful to   keep in mind if you get stuck in the writing  by committee and wordsmithing something to   death and feeling very shy about making a  final change before getting it absolutely   perfect. You can start with a version and  then you can always change it again later. If you want some tools to  help you with that process   the Hemingway App is what we we showed earlier  and we'll be using again in our demonstration.   The Conscious Style Guide is a great resource.  Plain Language Guidelines, this one's really nice.   This gets into some nitty-gritty of how to write  plain language that goes even more specific than   what we've shown in this presentation. If you have  a Drupal or a WordPress site there's modules and   plugins there that can help your editors. These  two give visual feedback to editors of areas where  

the content that they're writing or the images  they're using aren't accessible and how to fix   that. The biggest mistakes in writing for the web,  that's that video that Johanna mentioned earlier   and it's not that long so it's really great  information in a short amount of time there. So let's apply what we've learned  and I haven't checked the chat. I  

don't know Johanna or Michelle is  anybody anyone brave out there? Well first of all we have a really good  question from Jamie from Appalachian Voices   about multiple audiences and addressing  multiple audiences and there's been some   comments about they're needing to be different  reading levels, sometimes higher reading levels   are appropriate and sometimes jargon  is appropriate. We can definitely   address some of those questions, but we had  someone submit a page that they would like   that is a wall of text. They said that maybe not  on a recorded video, so if anyone has a page that   they are willing ,we will not be mean unless you  tell us to be mean, we're not here to be mean,   but we are happy to offer some helpful  actual feedback on a wall of text. Jamie says that they are happy to provide one.  

That would be awesome. If you can put  the link in the Zoom chat. Thank you. Coal impacts. Yes there are a lot of words at  the top of that page. There are some things   going for this page too. Do you want  to share that Clayton? Yes let's see. Oh no, you're getting the  Linux boxes on your share. They're going away now. Is it gone now? Clayton uses Linux. I'm a proud Linux  user and it's Zoom's fault not, Linux's.

Yeah Jamie, if you want to hop on and  talk a little bit about this. Also I   do think that probably more than just  you have questions about how to address   multiple audiences with different reading  levels and different levels of jargon.   Do you want to talk? I think this is an open  Zoom where you can just unmute yourself and talk. Yeah it seems like it is. Hi everybody. Welcome.

So just to provide you with a little bit of  background on this. We've recently started   to update our pages from the bottom up and this  is one of the first sections that we worked on.   This is as far as I could get people with the  text. I mean I edited and edited and this is as  

far as they would let me go. What I'm looking for  is what you mentioned as far as stakeholders is   that kind of proof and evidence and you know  coming from experts and buy-in on how to get   them in an even better scenario. This is as far  as I got them, but I feel like I got some words   out but I'd love more thoughts on this. I can also  show you a page with even more flaw if you want. Great. Jamie can you talk a little bit  about who your audience is for this page. So that's also one of the problems is that it's  such a mixed bag. It's everyone from just general   population that we want to take action all the way  up to legislators and legislative offices that we   want to read about this, grant organizations  that we want to read to fund our organization.  

It's everything from higher end and then even  technical, all the way to hey we want you to care   about this issue. So that's the problem that we're  running into, as of course a lot of people did.   I mean I worked really hard on this, but it was  a fight to try to get it down to be this simple.   So I still feel like it may be  a wall of text and again I can   show you some other ones like I  said that are even more dense. Yeah, well good for you for taking  that on and and having some success   rewriting it. I mean that's the first  part and that's the hardest part. While you're doing that, do you want me to  say something about multiple audiences? And   Michelle I know that you have multiple  audiences at Social Innovation Forum too.  

I mean pretty much every organization that we  work with has this problem um and one thing   I will say that from an accessibility standpoint  which is the standpoint I really truly care about,   just being transparent there, when you make  something more accessible for one group it doesn't   mean that other groups that don't need that level  of accessibility are going to have any trouble   with it. In fact usually when you improve it for  one group you improve it for everyone. That's   one of the principles of universal design. So if  you replace a doorknob with a lever someone who   can use a doorknob might also be holding two  plates of food and be able to use the lever.   So that is one argument to use with  stakeholders, that you're not shutting   legislators out if you bring your reading  level down from I see it's 12 to grade 9.   You can always consider starting a separate stream  of content that is more geared toward legislators.  You'll have opportunities to focus that if  you're not trying to hit multiple audiences   with the same content as well, but I know  that can be a capacity issue. Go ahead  

Clayton and Michelle. I don't know  if you have anything to add there. I was just going to add, thinking about streams  of content, one thing I think DevCollaborative   encouraged us to do is, we make a lot of  assumptions that all of our information   should live on all of our pages, when that's  not necessarily the case. One thing that we   had talked about is auditioning what you need for  the pages that are going to get the most traffic.   Thinking about where are our assumptions  on what needs to be here and if this is   an important page that many different  levels of stakeholders are visiting,   what is the almost bare bones content that  needs to be on there. How do I make it  

as accessible as possible for everyone  who's going to be interacting with it. Another thing that I think this page could  benefit from are some subheadings and maybe   this would be easier to to get buy-in from  stakeholders because that's something where   you're not convincing someone to cut a  sentence that they feel like is important,   but that can break up this page and headings  are great because then it very immediately   to the user is like oh here's the  information that is on the page.   Right now it's going to be a bit arbitrary  if I throw some in, but we can just do that. That's a good spot for black lung or coal. Or it can be even more concise than this  right. Another thing that I do is I look   for opportunities to break something out from a  comma separated list and into a bulleted list.

And the other thing is there's so much unlearning.  I got the gold stars from my English teacher for   as many complex sentences as I could write.  Short and simple sentences are easier for us   to read and skim and scan so a big part of it is  just breaking those complex sentences down into   two simple sentences. So "Thousands of former  mine site still pose health and safety risks."   It could even be something like,  "Environmental Damage From Coal Mines." Michelle has written grants and I was a  grant writer as well and you really get   trained by grants to just write things that  sound fancy in this really irritating way   by a lot of funders. That's how they train  you to write and it's really hard to break  

those habits especially if you're copying  and pasting because you have no time. Something like this, and now we've got  that and that's much more scannable. Another thing, and again this  is me taking my own advice. I saw it here earlier... There we go, if we change this,  

"We are also committing..." Okay so there's two things here that  are really common. There's a bunch of   helper words strung together. "We are  also committed to ensuring that the  

communities that have long borne the  brunt of mining are not left behind." So something like, "We make sure  communities aren't left behind."   instead of we are committed to ensuring that  people aren't you know there's a there's a lot   of that in the nonprofit world too of like  we are working to ensure that people have   the right to do such and such instead  of like we fight for people's rights. Yeah obviously even I'm guilty  of that. I mean my team is great,  

but you know we're all guilty, we get  stuck in our own little echo chamber. Yeah, I mean even what I rewrote could be  simplified to like "We leave no one behind." And then that have long born the brunt of mining,  yeah that's something I learned when I learned   Spanish because I had such a hard time I was  like, "He estado tratando..." you know and I'm   like wow this is hard for me to understand in  Spanish. Oh I do that in English all the time.   We are determined to hold profit profiteers,"  could be "We hold coal profiteers responsible   for cleaning up the land and water." As  you can see the red's already coming away.

Very nice. Thank you, it's fantastic. We've got another candidate here from the ACLU  of Northern California from Stephen Wilson. Jamie thank you so much for sharing. Thank you guys, thank you very much for  going through that. That was really helpful. You're doing great. This is a really interesting page  too because this trying hard to   walk someone through a really stressful  situation. Actually let me throw in another  

accessibility rah-rah thing that I have to say,  which is that even when you know your audience has   a high reading level, one situation where their  cognitive resources are reduced is when they're   stressed out. I'm sure we've all experienced that  and that actually can take someone's reading level   way down the more stressed out they are. Another  important principle that we use is to think about   whether someone's coming to a web page under  stress and it should be simplified even more   and maybe even as accessible as possible even more  if it's a page like this. Actually there's a lot   going on here that's already an improvement  over a wall of text, it could definitely be   more of a wall of text than it is. There's  really good HTML structure I can see here.   Yes Jamie, it happens to everyone I think during  the pandemic, I can barely read anything. I'm sure   other people can relate. Molly is asking what are  your thoughts on using accordions because I know  

that many designers and developers would come to  this page and be like well just stick it all under   an accordion. Please don't do that. Accordions can  be awesome in certain use cases but just imagine   just close your eyes and imagine for a second or  don't close your eyes, I can't see you anyway.   You are Googling, "What do I say when I want  to remain silent?" and this ACLU Northern   California page comes up in Google results  and you click on it and when you get there,   everything under "If you are stopped for  questioning" is hidden in an accordion, that   is a frustrating user experience because Google  will read things that are hidden under an   accordion, visually hidden, as you want them to.  So accordions, if they load open can be okay but   that's I feel is definitely a cop-out in some ways  because it's like well are there other things we   can do before we resort to an accordion here.  Should this be broken up into multiple pages?   Should it be an app? There's actually lots of  questions to ask here, but I would say that   there's probably also some visual design  treatment that could help with this page   in terms of icons and images breaking it up. I  don't know if Clayton or Michelle have thoughts. I had the same thought. Icons for you  know, here's the situation in your car,  

here's the situation if you're taken to the  police station. An infographic I think can   be helpful in these kinds of situations  which maybe is in this paper pamphlet. Can I ask a direct question? With  infographics I have trouble because   I'm usually uploading them as an image and having  to do alt text on an infographic is just like a   time killer for the social media team we have  so it usually turns into a bulleted list that a   screen reader can read that automatically. Instead  of uploading an infographic image file without  

sufficient alt text. So quick note about  alt text, there was a session yesterday   so you should check out the recording on alt  text. You do not have to enter any text in the   alt attribute for an image that is decorative or  design enhancement. If you took that image away,   would the content still make sense. If that's the  case then, you want the alt attribute to be there,   but it you can have it be blank and a screen  reader will skip it. Of course it can be   annoying if you use a content management system  you have to make sure that your development team   or your developer, whoever, or you yourself  figure out how to allow a blank alt attribute,   but it is in fact true that you can add the  visual design enhancements to help sighted   users but they they are not necessarily  useful for for people using a screen reader   and so you do not have to provide  alt text in that situation.

Does that answer your question Stephen? I think  so I definitely want to go back and check out   the recording of the alt text. Yeah alt text is  one of those things where it's really editorial   and like of an art than a science, you know  accessibility checkers treat it like it's   just an on off switch and of course  it's not, like most things in life. So the screen readers don't  just read the file name? If you have blank alt attribute  or you use ARIA to say hidden   they will not read it. So the  blank alt is like the best,   is like gold standard for I am just visual  enhancement, you do you do not need me.

I do want to show one thing from what we prepared  because it's a common thing that we see. So the   Social Innovator Accelerator page, this is  one that we're working on rewriting for the   new site and what you're seeing here if you  were to inspect this and look at the HTML,   you would see that this text here is a heading 4.   Most likely what happened is that the person  who originally wrote this wanted this to be   in all caps and in bold and they knew that in  their WYSIWYG editor that the heading 4 style   was going to transform that text into all caps and  so they wanted to use that style, but semantically   on the page you always want your headings to  follow, just like in an outline, of heading   1 is the page title, the next heading that you  use on the page should be heading 2. If there's   any subheading of that then that's a heading  three, etc. and so using out of order headings  

affects your search engine optimization because  it tells Google this is important but not as   important as this and it also messes with  people's screen reader experience because   you can jump from different headings and if your  screen reader is like, "oh here's a heading 4,"   then that throws things off. That's one thing  when you're working on content is just to   double check and make sure that editors aren't  using headings just for aesthetic style purposes   and are using it semantically appropriately.  The other thing that's related to this is that   all caps is helpful if it's just a word or  two maybe three but after that it becomes   more difficult to read. So that's something  that will be changing about this page is just   changing that back to regular casing and not  using the heading tag for that particular area.   That's all I wanted to  specifically say about that. Anything else in the chat? Any specific  questions anybody has, or points? I have a question about what you just  said about headings. That's fascinating,  

I never knew that. So in this  example, if you scroll down,   is eligibility requirements then prioritized  by Google's crawlers because it is a heading 2? Yeah. So that's really important to make all of your  headings something you want Google to catch.

Yeah and with anything SEO related you want to  still make sure that you're writing naturally,   don't feel like you have to overdo it, but just  know that they are taking that into account. One   of the things that I try and encourage people to  do, if you use Chrome or Firefox there are these   extensions that will actually quickly show you the  outline of your page in HTML because even though   HTML seems like what is HTML what's the point I  don't get it, it's really very very very basic   and kind of silly. Machines are pretty stupid  and they have no idea what you mean when you   present a bunch of text on a web page and  you're using HTML to tell machines, computers,   web browsers and screen readers and Google,  who also cannot see with eyes your content   what is important on the page, and some  sort of structural hierarchy of your words.  There's one that I use called like SEO, has a  terrible name, it's like seo-extension.com and  

I use it in Chrome and oh wow their website  has an error, but the extension still works.   It's just a little add-on to your browser and you  can pop open an outline of your content and see   what it looks like. Oh gosh there's another good  question. Am I derailing you Clayton? I'm sorry. Is it the 500 word recommendation? Because  that's a good point. We should talk about that. So Tammy makes a note, SEO experts tell me every  page should have at least 500 words. How can we   balance that with your suggestions? So  this is a really good example again.   This is my opinion, but I think it's the right  one because it's mine. There's certain kind of SEO  

advice out there that I feel like becomes overly  formulaic and this is a good example of one.   If you've got like the that landing page that  we showed earlier where we're listing the Social   Innovator Accelerator, the Capacity Camps. the  Alumni Network, it's essentially an interstitial   page onto other sub pages. I wouldn't follow  that 500 word minimum for a page like that. The   nice thing about Google becoming more and more  sophisticated you know there's the dystopian,   scariness of Google but one thing that  they're doing is they're becoming more   and more sophisticated. You just need to write  content that's relevant to your readers is the   most important thing when it comes to search  engine optimization and so you don't have to   stick to that like hard and fast rule  and and other kind of rules like that.   You want your page to read natural. If you are  at a decision point of whether something is  

kind of breaking from an SEO convention that you  learned if it's gonna make something read weird   or kind of artificial then it's almost always  not worth doing to check that SEO check box. How much formatting is too much formatting?  Yeah, how much formatting I add is too much   I can tell you that has been true  since 1999. I bold everything and I'm   like oh I bolded everything, that's  bad. This is why designers exist. Which a related note on underlining. You  should really avoid it. Underlining is  

conveyed with links, so you should use other ways  to emphasize something other than an underline,   unless it is an actual link.  That is a very good point. I think we're at time and I'm sorry we started  a little late, but I just want to thank everyone   so much for being here and for being so chatty  and contributing stuff and sharing your stuff.   You can reach us, our Twitter handles and emails  are in the collaborative notes and thank you   Michelle also for being here today and yeah have  a great NTC and hopefully in person next year.

2023-01-16 12:15

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