Tag Archives: Carphone Warehouse

Writing by numbers

numbersJane Penson has written an interesting blog about the Flesch reading ease index. So interesting in fact, that I’ve spent a large part of my lunch hour working out how ‘readable’ my own writing is.

The Flesch index is a formula that decides how easy it is to read your work. The formula is based on the length of your sentences and the number of syllables in each word – fewer words and fewer syllables equals easier reading. If you’re interested, there’s lots more info about how it works here.

The formula produces a score out of 100, with a score of more than 40 being reasonably clear. Maths enthusiasts may enjoy working out the score for themselves, but Microsoft Word will do it for you. Just select Tools > Options > Spelling and Grammar and tick the Show readability stats box. Your Flesch score will then appear after you’ve run a spelling and grammar check.

The good news for me was that a couple of pieces chosen randomly from the Carphone help section did well. This page explaining how broadband works scored 71.4, while this one about online billing got 73.1. According to Jane’s blog, a typical article from The Sun scored 62. As we’re using simpler language than Chelsea, 22 from Essex, it’s safe to assume we’re not baffling anyone with our verbosity.

The obvious question to ask is: ‘is the Flesch index useful?” Like all formulas, it only measures success according to a few select criteria, and with something as abstract and flexible as writing that doesn’t seem a good idea. The other problem with using Flesch is that you’re likely to end up manipulating your copy purely to get a better score, which isn’t necessarily conducive to the initial aim of making your writing clearer.

That said, I’m sure I’ll obsessively check my work from now on to see just how ‘readable’ I can become. There’s nothing like the introduction of a scorecard to get the competitive juices flowing. And in the interests of research, I did get a Flesch score for Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare. I was sure that nothing so old could fare well according to a ‘readability’ formula. It got 81.9.

Which goes to show that beauty definitely is simplicity. And that Flesch maybe has a point.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

What a difference a word makes

Carphone3

Copywriting is all in the detail. On the carphonewarehouse.com homepage we have a link that takes customers to our help section. Deciding what to call this link didn’t seem like a particularly big deal – we talked about ‘Help’ and ‘Help and Support’ but eventually settled on the former because we thought it was cleaner and more to the point.

As an experiment, we switched it to ‘Help and Support’ last week to see if it would encourage more people to click. It shouldn’t have made much of a difference, but in fact clicks on that link have tripled.

Whether this is because the new link takes up more space and is easier to find, or whether people associate ‘Help and Support’ with a website’s help section more readily is debatable. It’s probably a bit of both. But it does show the difference that one word can make.

Websites are judged by their covers

cpwBob Willis, the former England cricketer, wrote in his autobiography about being a teenager trying to break into the Surrey first team. His father, unimpressed by his shoddy appearance, admonished him: “You’ll never be a professional unless you look like one.”

The same applies to websites.  Our new help and support site at Carphone has had, until recently, a fairly weak and disjointed landing page. It’s now been replaced by this super-swish version that has lots of new images and a much cleaner appearance (modesty prohibits me from revealing who did a lot of the designing).

Our stats show that this new sexy page is going down well – people are clicking the links on it far more often than they were on the old version. Of course, not all the changes we’ve made are cosmetic – the structure of the new page is more user-friendly and our most popular content has been made more prominent.

But I definitely think the fact that our new landing page looks smarter – and more professional – is an important factor. Visiting a website for the first time is a bit of a lottery and there are so many terrible sites out there that it’s easy for a bad first impression to make users give up completely.

So it’s vital that our homepage gives at least the vague idea that we know what we’re doing. Having the best content in the world is no good if users take a glance at the first page they see and decide the site is rubbish. Websites are judged by their covers, but luckily ours seems to be much less of a dirty old dust jacket these days.