Ceefax predicts mobile web: Jakob Neilsen declares BBC world’s best headline writers

The latest article by Jakob Nielsen, the living legend of usability who publishes regularly on a web developers’ treasure trove and graphic designers’ nightmare of a website, declares the BBC News website as the epitome of great web writing. This is true, and a well established fact, that the headline writers at the BBC succinctly encapsulate a story in such clarity in the space of four words that viewing their RSS feed you never need to read a newspaper again (sort of). What I found more interesting though was the off hand reference to Ceefax as the historical evidence that the BBC has always been good at writing effectively and efficiently.

Curve of clarity: Picking the right keywords

Choosing the right words to fill your webpage, or keywords for your ad campaigns can sometimes be hit or miss. Using the ‘curve of clarity’ as an idea, you should be able to choose appropriate keywords to maximise seo efficiency and also the readability and relevance of your site.

Key principles

  1. Words in common usage have high numbers of search engine results.
  2. Words which are specialist have lower numbers of search engine results.
  3. Marketese words, or words which mean one thing but are given a different meaning for marketing, business lingo or general jargon, have high search engine results when searching those terms, but low search engine presence when searching for the term those words actually mean in plain English. (See also: Plain English to help SEO and note that marketese increases bounce rates)


  1. cat: 905,000,000 results.
  2. abyssinian: 985,000 results.
  3. lap warmer: 62,800 results.

Curve of Clarity

 The curve of clarity has an arbitary scale, but you’ll get the general idea:

Their news, us news, me news: newspapers are old news

The speed at which news is classed as ‘new’ has changed. Newspapers simply can’t keep up with the pace of life that the current Internet age provides. The scope of news has changed dramatically too, especially with the concepts of Twitter and (as one example) BBC News ‘Have Your Say’ feature on web stories.

SEO long tail: use it to your advantage

One of the keys to a successful web presence has nothing to do with search engine optimisation. Though SEO techniques can certainly benefit the exposure of your site, what really counts is making sure the site has direction. Indeed for most websites, paying good money for a SEO consultant would be about as productive as posting junk mail to yourself. Search engine algorithms are being more aware of over-optimised sites and penalising those who attempt black hat strategies. Giving a specific direction, making sure your site stands out will help more than SEO for a generic direction. 

Usability and SEO of hyperlinks and link text (Reflections on Jakob Nielsen)

Jakob Nielsen is proclaimed as the guru of web usability, analysing and writing about usability and SEO methods any web designer, developer or author can apply to their site. He is both adored and panned by the web community for his insightful and informative, but hideously designed website*. Ranked very highly in the community, his work (when you ignore the shameless promotion of his pricey conferences, reports and books) quite often presents a particular argument followed by a very short counter-argument.

Quick steps to improving readability (Reflections on GCD post)

As well as a couple of simple steps to take to improve readability of sites (below), this is just a short post to flag up an article I found recently by Gail Diggs at GCD Marketing: When “Bad Writing” is Good. Essentially, the old rules of copy writing are “thrown out the window” because of the way that users read text on screen in short, scanning ways and are often impatient to find the next web page to read. This compared to the paper-based format of ‘leisure reading’.

Beware the fold – Designing for netbooks

Web designers need to be more aware of the popularity of netbooks as cheap, low-tech, laptop notebooks. This popularity has suggested that a significant proportion of web users are quite happy with low-power processing (hence longer battery life) in order they can check their email and favourite websites on the move. This has spelt an end, or if not an end then a fork, in the ever increasing screensize theory.

Radio broadcasting – URY Breakfast

The second of two flagship shows on URY I have been involved with (the first being URY Gold). I have presented Sunday Breakfast (Oct-Dec 2005) and Tuesday Breakfast (Oct 2006 – Jun 2007).

The show normally comprises a mix of the latest chart hits and a couple of 80s/90s oldies. Most of the content comes from the tabloids all too often featuring a strange story about an inept criminal from Germany. Anyway, the show has some other second-rate features but the pace of the show is kept quick, with plenty of music, as there’s only so much you can do on a Breakfast show on your own.

Listen to URY Tuesday Breakfast

Radio broadcasting – Early Breakfast

The first regular show I presented on URY which ran from 2004-2005. It originally started at 7.30am until I got lazy in the second term and switched it to 8am. The show had a mix of pop music, laughable features and a small fan base in the electronics department.

Which… Came First?

Two songs by the same artist (or some other relevant link), all that needed to be decided was which one was released first as a single in the UK. Data provided by Guinness Hit Singles & Albums.

Radio broadcasting – Radio Cabin RSL

I began work on the RSL project at Radio Cabin with my On Air team back in March 2003. I wrote out the application which was rapidly accepted and so lots of money went to the Radio Authority to pay for it all.

Susan Torevell gathered up the sponsorships while James B worked on finding some jingles. The week before we went On Air, I sat at home and in the Cabin studio frantically constructing 15 adverts, hundreds of personalised ID tags and was very grateful for Susan’s friend Kamal’s hidden voice over talents. I want to also thank Matt Curtis of Folkestone who also runs a Hospital Radio Station for his help in getting voiceovers for us. Thanks should go to all the team for their commitment and enthusiasm during the two week broadcast.