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.”

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:

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…

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.