Seven tips for better writing on the Web

1. Make your copy scannable.

From dotmarketing:  "For years, usability researchers have found that Web users rarely read entire pages, word for word. Web users:

  • Scan pages
  • Pick out key words and phrases
  • Read in quick, short bursts
  • Are action oriented
  • Click and forage in search of bits of information that lead them toward a goal

"There is evidence, in fact, that shows that reading on a screen is physiologically more difficult than reading on paper. Reading long paragraphs on a screen hurts the eyes, is laborious and time consuming in a medium known for speed."

Also:

  • Use bulleted or numbered lists. Lists create chunks of content that facilitates scanning. Lists can separate ideas and allow for counting.
  • Put key phrases and keywords in bold, if it makes sense.
  • Q&A is a smart way to present a lot of information.

See also: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html


2. Catch your readers' attention in the first few words. Start with the conclusion, follow with the details.


3. Use half the word count of traditional writing: Write more like USAToday, less like the New York Times.


4. Use words that your target audiences use when searching. Avoid jargon. This Google tool can help you determine the words your audience uses most frequently when searching for information on your topic.


5. The words that are hyperlinked should be carefully chosen. People scan and jump to the links. The links should describe what users will see when they click on it.

Also: Search engines put emphasis on hyperlinked words when determining page rank or importance. (Search engines also put high emphasis on headlines, subheads and keywords.)

Examples:

POOR: Department C has approved this event as a continuing education/professional development opportunity for staff. For the application, click here. For the retreat agenda, click here.

BETTER: Department C has approved this event as a continuing education/professional development opportunity for staff. Download the application and the retreat agenda.

POOR LINK: Directory

BETTER LINK: Find a person in the employee directory Or: Search employee directory

6. Do not put the Web address in your writing.

POOR: Visit The University of Akron's Web site at www.uakron.edu.

BETTER: Visit The University of Akron's Web site.


7. Find the right tone. The Web is a very direct, informal medium. When your readers scan your content, every word is valuable.

Do not fill your pages with marketing "fluff" or needless formalities. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Boastful, exaggerated language reduces the likelihood that your content will be read or believed.  (Source: dotmarketing)

Resources

Writing for the Web, by dotmarketing, the firm that helped UA redesign its Web site.

Essays about Web content, from A List Apart

 

 

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