Steve Krug addresses the use of conventions in chapter 3 of Don’t Make Me Think Revisited. He clarifies this concept by comparing for example, STOP signs. We recognize stop signs without having to read the word stop. Even when stop signs are in other languages the signs maintain consistency, and we recognize them without having to read or think about it. He applies this concept to scan-ability and writing for the web. Users don’t spend time reading, they scan.
Essentially, make things obvious.
As users we expect certain web options to be in specific places, for instance we have come to expect a search bar in the upper right somewhere on our screen. Why? Because its usually in the upper right of our screen, that’s why. When we don’t find it there we have to stop and think and that slows us down from our initial tasks. Yes, we seem to be quite impatient, don’t we? So stay consistent. Or as Steve says “don’t reinvent the wheel.”
When we are online as users, we are scanning for the information we need or topics and headlines that interest us. We want what we are looking for to jump out at us ” Here I am!” Krug lists several ways to accommodate to users and incorporate the conventions that we have grown accustomed to.
A great way to promote scan-ability is by dividing the content by headings and subheadings. You can achieve this by separating the information by level of importance and or prominence on a page. This allows the user to find exactly what they are looking for without having to read paragraphs of unrelated information.