I know this sounds like common sense, but with the long holiday I’ve had a bevy of extra time to catch up on a million email digests, Google reader feeds, etc, and I have been absolutely shocked at the number of times I was drawn in by an articles’ title, only to get two paragraphs in and realize I had no idea why I was continuing to read. Aside from the obvious problem of failing to deliver on an implied promise, there is a more serious issue in terms of a loss of trust. This type of practice will lead to users no longer trusting the author or site. Given the amount of available options, and limited screen-time people generally have, this is detrimental to building a lasting and fanatical audience.
The initial traffic bump of a catchy but misleading headline will ultimately erode users confidence that they are going to find value after that click, and will likely be lost forever. I’ll freely admit that I don’t have any empirical evidence on the subject, but it doesn’t seem like a presumptuous assertion to make, given my own observed behavior, and informal discussions with others within my digital community. In the ever growing shift to user-centric experience/design, I firmly believe that the value proposition of a well formed title and correspondingly on-point article or post, will lead to greater levels of user satisfaction, more shares, and a far more loyal base of repeat readers. Disagree? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.