Monkey Do

Auto-Truncating Article Titles (don’t do it)

Designing for the web isn’t easy — especially when you’re trying to wrangle lots of content. Many many readers enter a site not through the front door but via a direct link to an article, and building in spaces to promote other content is critical. Making it look great is important — but content must always trump appearance.

I ran across a perfect example of this today while reading an article on the National Review Online. Their article pages have a sidebar item called the “NRO Live Blog Feed.”

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As you can see, every item is exactly the same height, which makes for a nice-to-look-at series of links.

Unfortunately, this means that they have to auto-trucate titles if they go over a certain length. Why is this a problem? Take a look at the second item:

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The link text reads “Gingrich’s Claim that He Gave Depositions in Both Divorces Likely…”

But when you click to read the article you discover…

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The actual title of the piece is “Gingrich’s Claim that He Gave Depositions in Both Divorces Likely False” (emphasis mine). This is a very different story.

I would venture to guess that most of us skim these link lists without clicking through to many (if any) of the articles linked — nevertheless we treat these titles as content.

Had I not clicked through to the article, I would have left the NRO’s web site thinking that Gingrich had given both depositions (even though I honestly have little knowledge about the depositions that the title is referring to). Even if I don’t recall the details of the title, I would have left with an erroneous impression that I came across a positive piece about Newt Gingrich, which is absolutely not the case.

People read titles, even if they don’t read the articles. Make sure they represent your message.