User Interface

Trigger Words on Your Site

noseJared Spool of User Interface Engineering spoke a month ago at the CoffeeCup Webmaster Jam in Dallas, TX, and introduced the concept of trigger words. Jared has long been talking about a user’s Scent of Information when navigating a Web site, and trigger words are an extension of that: a user will continue to navigate through a site (move from page to page to page) if they see the words that trigger them to click. A key to that idea is that each word (sometimes supplemented by images and additional text around that word) must be more and more specific until it eventually leads to the content that user wants.

If a user doesn’t find that content, he/she will actually tell you how your site should be arranged by typing a trigger word into your search box. But once a user starts searching, that user is predisposed to continue to search regardless of how specific the search results are. So the moral of the story is to look at your search logs and see what users are typing in on specific pages, and to integrate that stuff into your site — pretty basic stuff, but a good reminder.

Another interesting concept Jared introduced is the Iceberg Effect, in that a user may be driven to search even if he/she doesn’t scan the whole page for for a trigger word, because they think that what’s below the fold of your page (what they’d see by scrolling down) isn’t any different than what’s above the fold. Mainly this is a copywriting issue — if a user sees “marketing fluff”, he/she doesn’t think the rest of the page will be any better.


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