Last month I wrote about how The Mirror messed up a new poem from the poet laureate by laying it out badly on their web site. The main point is less that poetry should be handled carefully (which it should), and more that we should be sensitive to when content requires tailored presentation, rather than shoving it in generic article templates that ruin it by, say, putting a large animated advert in the middle of it.
Well, The Mirror are at it again, with the same unfortunate author. Carol Ann Duffy’s poem about UK flights grounded because of the Icelandic volcano appears on their site with all the same mistakes as her first one, only this time missing a word to boot.* (Believe it or not, an even more horrific version appears elsewhere on the same site).
This time, however, the Times are at it too.
Who was responsible for your horrific old web site again?
You know, the one crowded with far too much information, most of it out of date, and navigation like a drunk describing the way to the kebab shop.
The one where one line is emphasised in italics, the next one in bold, before the floodgates open and red and blue type competes with underlining, CAPITALS, and multiple exclamation marks!!!!!!!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to like poetry. You don’t even have to know who or what Carol Ann Duffy or a Poet Laureate is. This is about valuing content in the way that you present it on your web site so that your readers will value it too.
Here’s what happened. Carol Ann Duffy is a talented British poet. She wrote a topical and smart little verse about David Beckham being ruled out of the World Cup because of an Achilles’ injury. The Mirror, one of the UK’s tabloid newspapers, published it exclusively on its web site last week.
And that’s where it went Goldenballs up:
If I told you there was a simple, proven way to be believed and appear intelligent while leaving people feeling good about themselves – would you believe me? Or would you exit hastily muttering something about snake oil? What if I added that it was completely free, and that I would share this knowledge with [...]
Have you ever shared a room at night with a mosquito?
Tiny things can ruin what should be a straightforward experience. Don’t deal with the mosquito, and you’re in for a bad night’s sleep at best. Leave a spelling mistake on your web site because it seems insignificant to you – and it’s your customers who will be complaining and not coming back.
Writing great copy involves not only choosing the right words, but also caring how those words appear. Font choice and size, line length, punctuation, paragraph length – all these are part of the readers’ experience of your message.
Many of these decisions are subjective. How much space to leave between sentences, for example: surely it is up to the author to decide what is most fitting?
Yes, and no.