William's home for discarded gems and concepts-in-progress.

Welcome to William Van Winkle's blog, home for everything from notes on his latest ebooks to leftovers from his articles in CPU, Tom's Hardware, Smart Computing, and other media outlets. Check out his author pages at Amazon and Smashwords!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Formatting Matters

Wow, what a difference. Some weeks ago, I alluded to a story I was working of for Tom's Hardware about Wi-Fi technology. The first piece in what became a two-part series, "Why Your Wi-Fi Sucks and How It Can Be Helped," went live in what we call a picture story format. The idea from the beginning had been to focus on informative graphics, each backed with a couple hundred words or so of supporting text. We'd used picture stories on articles like this in the past and done quite well with them.

However, Tom's has recently undergone a site formatting update, and the picture story format changed with it. The editor and I didn't appreciate how the look and feel of the story would be impacted until after the article published, and the backlash from readers was horrendous. One person even offered up a new title: *Why Your Article Layout Sucks And How It Can Be Helped* After pouring weeks of effort into this story and feeling more proud of it than any article I've written in a long time, this was a pretty harsh blow.

A week later (yesterday), we released Part 2. This time, we used a conventional review article format, and the reader results were 180 degrees opposite from the first story. Many readers gushed about it being one of the best online articles they'd read in a long time. In my mind, the quality of the content across both pieces was similar, but all it took to destroy public perception was a lot of unnecessary clicking. Lesson learned.


  1. Hi, Could it possible to have the origal article in the planned presentation posted e.g. as a PDF whitepaper?

    I'm having tremendous difficulties finishing the article as I'm a slow reader and am continuously starting over from page 8 as I don't remember how far I read last time.

  2. Ah ha! Found it. Try this: http://pdf.ruckuscdn.com/reviews/toms-2011-wlan-review-part-1.pdf