01 May 2009

BBC Has Best Headline Writers

Online usability expert Jakob Nielsen says BBC News online editors 'consistently do an awesome job.' Their headlines, he says, are:

* Short.
* Rich in information, clearly summarizing the article's contents.
* Front-loaded with the most important keywords, helping users who often scan only the beginning of list items.
* Understandable out of context, aiding users who find them through search engines.
* Predictable, promising what the story delivers so users rarely waste clicks on an item that turns out to be something other than what they expected.

Nielsen found that the average BBC News headline used a mere 5 words and 34 characters. `The amount of meaning they squeezed into this brief space is incredible: every word works hard for its living,' he says.

`Visit the site daily for a week,' he urges, `and try to apply some of the BBC editors' discipline to your own headlines.'

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