UIEtips: The Right Trigger Words

Jared Spool

December 9th, 2009

“On a web site, the design is represented by two separate yet equally important components. The content users and the links they use. These are their stories.” Doink-Doink.

Ok, really it’s just the story of the links. (We’ll talk about the content later, I promise.)

About 10 years ago, we started looking at how users decided to move from one page to the next. Curiously, we found a consistent pattern, independent of the users’ previous experience or the design of the page. Upon reaching a page, the users scanned the page for the phrases or words that were important to them. If they found them, they’d try to click on them (or the link that seemed to go with them).

We call those magic phrases “Trigger Words”, because they trigger the user into action. They are key to understanding the secret to getting your users to the content they’re seeking. Hardly a day goes by where we don’t talk about their importance to one client or another.

That’s why we decided it’s time to republish the article we wrote about them, The Right Trigger Words. While we wrote this back in 2004 and the examples have aged a little (Analog’s home page, for example, now uses flyout menus instead of listing all the trigger words right on the page), the article is still the best resource we have to explain what we mean. I’m betting you’ll enjoy it.

Bringing this article up is timely, because it fits perfectly with Shari Thurow’s upcoming UIE Virtual Seminar, When Search Meets Web Usability. Join us on the 12/16 webinar, and you’ll see how Shari uses trigger words to make sure you’re getting the most out of your search engine optimization efforts.

Are trigger words important to your design strategy? What techniques have you used to identify and integrate them into your site? Share your experiences below.

One Response to “UIEtips: The Right Trigger Words”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Speaking of trigger words, when scanning this post in my feed reader I was SURE that it was about Tiger Woods.

    I think this means something insightful about how different people respond differently to certain trigger words, but I’m no expert…

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