Many years ago, I was enjoying some coffee that I had picked up on the way to work, and I noticed a message written along the bottom of the cup. It was in all caps, and really orange, so I figured it must be important…

“To our valued customer: Please be careful; our delicious coffee is extremely hot.”

I had to tilt the cup awkwardly and rotate it continuously as I read. So, by the time I got to the word “hot,” the message had already been delivered by the burning sensation in my lap.

That coffee cup made an impression on me that would last long after the burn scar faded away. Like so many website owners, the coffee people had an important message for me, and they delivered it… eventually.

  • First, they chose to patronize me (“To our valued customer…”)
  • Then, they told me what to do with the information they hadn’t yet given to me (“please be careful…”)
  • Then, they worked in a little self-promotion (“our delicious coffee…”)
  • Only then did they finally get to the only thing that mattered (“…is extremely hot.”)

It sounds so easy. Anticipate the needs of web users, and lead with the content that is most immediately applicable to them. But in practice, website writers, much like coffee cup writers, can let their own agenda get in the way.

Of course, you and I would never do this, right? Right? Well take a look at the following and see if it sounds at all familiar to you…

  • Welcome to our website…
  • You can use this page to find valuable information about…
  • We particularly pride ourselves on…
  • Now here are some useful links and information…

Isn’t that pretty much the same formula? It’s all coming back to me… The pain.

Now let’s consider another coffee cup. I got this one from a restaurant that had been sued by a customer with a burnt lip. Right at the top, in big bold letters, it says: “Caution: HOT.”


  • Know what information is most pertinent to your users’ needs
  • Don’t let your own agenda get in the way
  • Always make sure the lid is fastened tightly before you try to read the bottom of a !$%/@ing coffee cup