Welcome to the 21st century, where we don't "click here" anymore

By Tim Nekritz,
Associate Director of Public Affairs and Director of Web Communication

When a new student walks into your office, do you throw up your arms and bellow: "Welcome to the Office of Student Enlightenment!!"? Do you point to a chair and say: "Sit here to continue this meeting!"?

Of course, you don't. Or we hope you don't. So why would you do the same thing on the Internet?

Yet Web pages still start with phrases like "Welcome to the Office of Student Enlightenment!!" They still tell readers to "Click Here!" instead of using actual, conversational words to help navigate. Not only do these phrases waste space and readers' time, but they insult the intelligence of the visitor.

Long ago, when the Internet was new, standard practices were non-existent and users had no Internet experience, phrases like "Welcome to ..." and "Click here!" flourished because no one understood how readers would navigate. But potential and current students - the main audience for most of our Web site - have grown up on the Web and know how to navigate it. Chances are they understand this better than you or I or anyone who remembers the 1970s (or is trying to forget disco).

SUNY Oswego Web sites have a space in the title line to tell readers where they are. And an optional subhead for more, or more defining, information. With these details already on the page, welcoming them to wherever they are is downright redundant.

Meanwhile, across the Webiverse, linked phrases like "Learn More ..." or "Find out about our scholarship programs or other financial aid options ..." are widely understood by our Web-literate students and potential students. Using inline links as navigation allows your Web page to remain friendly, conversational and concise ... without suddenly demanding they "Click Here!" like some kind of trained dog.

Take a look at Facebook, the most popular Web site among our target market. If you surf to John Q. Smith's page, no banner need say "Welcome to John Q. Smith's home page!!" Instead of telling readers to "Click Here!," Facebook's more than 1 billion members have little problem accessing options with phrases like "Add Friend," "Friends" or "Photos."

Remember, your readers are smart, tech-savvy and understand Web navigation. Let them feel like your Web content is a friendly conversation, where they will already feel welcome and will click on a link when the words capture their interest.