Redundancy makes texts more understandable

It must have been around 15 years since I handed in my last school essay. At that time everything was clear: the top rule of the teachers was: no repetitions. That then runs through from the university to the editor training, no repetition. Sorry, I didn't write a repetition in this paragraph three times.

The background is clear, an average school essay or newspaper report contains maybe 100 lines and repetitions in the printout are annoying. Every day, thousands of students and journalists search for synonyms or more or less appropriate awkward paraphrases instead of using the same expression twice in a row. This may still make sense in the print sector.

This is different for texts on the web. Take the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for example, which many persons find superfluous. When I propose an FAQ to persons who are responsible for web portals but have no particular interest in the Internet, they just look at me stupidly. "After all, the information is on our website." But do they really?

Information structures on large websites

Every website operator knows how difficult it can be to keep an eye on the content of all pages, even on a small website. Didn't I write a post about design and consciousness two years ago? With a medium-sized website of a few hundred pages, information is often lost when there is a change in staff, the editorial system or a relaunch.

State institutions in particular seem to have a penchant for rebuilding the entire link structure when they are renovated, so that bookmarks no longer work and even Google starts to sweat. After all, it can take some time for large websites before all pages are re-indexed and can be found again. However, these websites in particular often have a poor information structure so that you don't want to stay there for long. It is a great mystery to mankind why these authorities are unable to maintain the old link structure, build a proper 301 redirect, or issue halfway usable 404 error messages. However, if link structures are rebuilt, the thought is at least obvious that individual pages will also be lost - or you simply can't find them anymore.

Check the frontend more often

Apart from that, there is an effect that can perhaps be called operational blindness in the other sense. persons look less and less at their own website. I work in the editorial system that, except for Drupal, looks completely different from the frontend in almost all editorial systems. From time to time I post a new text and check in the frontend whether the text has been transferred correctly, whether the line breaks are correct and whether there are any typos. So it can be that complete strangers deal more intensively with my site than I do myself. And thus also know more about my content than I do. So often you don't even know what's on your own website - and above all you don't know what's not on it but should be.

Scan and skim

Only the most devout web designers still believe that the user moves through the website like through a book. First the introduction, then the main part and then the grand finale is read through from beginning to end. The opposite might be more true for most persons. Texts are cross-read, the first promising link that seems to bring salvation from ignorance is clicked and on we go. On TV it would be called zapping, on the web it's called scanning and skimming. In fact, this means that the absorption of information on the web or on the screen is generally much worse than with print media. That's why intelligent redundancy - not stupid repetition - can help users along.

it is very important to offer the visitor different ways of accessing the website. Whether these are different click paths or different compilations of information. Web purists would call this redundancy. I call it service. You can call it what you want: fact sheet, summary, a neatly maintained compilation of all important information in a nutshell saves the reader a lot of time and also the operator of the site, who then gets a few fewer emails.