Why we don’t really want to learn more

I was recently reminded of something that continues to be overlooked by a lot of people writing for the web: the use of generic Learn more links and their variants (e.g. Read more, Find out more). I still frequently see clients who have obviously spent time and money developing web content, only to then fall back to using these types of links across a number of pages, and often using them repeatedly on the same page. So why is that a problem? Well, here are three reasons why your Learn more links should be more specific:

1) Web usability says so
By now, there is a reasonable amount of data that says that people don’t read most websites in-depth, but rather scan content, often quickly, to find the information that they’re after. Most commercial websites would fall into this category, but also those of government agencies and many NGOs.

The implication for writing links is that they need to quickly indicate to users what information can be found by following them. Eye tracking research by web usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, suggests that users may decide after as little as the first two words of a link whether to read it in full, or to move on to another section of the web page. So in many instances, Learn more simply might not provide users with enough information.

This is especially true for people who are visually-impaired, and who need to use a screen reader to identify elements of a web page. Most screen reader’s will literally read out a list of a page’s links, without any of the visual context that might help users identify where those links point to. When that’s a list of links that all say Learn more, where do you start?

2) The suggestive power of language
Learn more is a rather vague exhortation. After all, who doesn’t want to learn more? Everyone we would hope. But who’s got the time to do so? In an age where time is more precious than money, Learn more is something I know I should do, but which will probably be put off until I’ve completed all of the day’s specific tasks. And they are quite probably the reason I’m searching for something on the internet.

For commercial websites, Learn more links are often associated with moving people further into the conversion funnel. Unless you’re Amazon, e-commerce conversion rates are around 2-4%, even as low as 1.5% for smartphone users. Is Learn more enough to motivate customers to take further action like clicking through to a product detail page? It’s not something I’d be betting money on.

3) Generic = lazy
Just like you wouldn’t use stock photos on your website (right?), you shouldn’t use generic phrases for links that point to other pages. Why? Because both of these things actually suggest that the level of care you have for your web content, and hence your customers/clients/users, has definite limits. And that’s not something that most people want to hear. The devil, as they say, is most definitely in the details.

So how can you write better Learn more links?

  • Add keywords. If you really have to keep the Learn more format, add keywords from the destination page. (e.g. Learn more about cat grooming). It’s a perfect opportunity to use them in context, while giving meaning to the link itself. If possible, you can just link to the keywords themselves (e.g. Learn more about cat grooming). That leads to…
  • Start with the really important information. Based on Nielsen’s first-two-word theory above, links need to very quickly convince users that they lead to the information they’re after. So an even better option is to drop the Learn more element altogether and get the keywords right to the front (e.g. instead of Learn how to prune trees like a professional, use Prune trees like a pro).

Have you got any other ideas for rewriting Learn more links? How do you use these types of links on your site? It would be great to hear from you.

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