Often, people who have little or no training in writing for the Web find themselves charged with managing their company’s Web site content. Since we’ve gotten a lot of questions throughout the years regarding site content, I thought it might be useful to put together this tip sheet.
3 Golden Rules
- Less is more.
- Utilize links, bulleted lists and headings so users can easily scan the page for information.
- Writing for the Web is different than writing for print.
Where Should You Start?
- Make an outline. Creating an outline or site map is an easy way to organize information into main pages (a.k.a. main navigation) and sub pages.
- Think about your audience.
- Write a first draft. This includes anything and everything you think should be included. Don’t worry about the exact wording, just get the general idea down on paper, even if you’re only describing the content for that section (i.e. “this page needs a photo and a short bio”).
- Strike out content you can do without.
- Repeat step 4.
- Compare the first draft with the third draft. Is it about 25% of what you originally had? If the answer is yes, move onto the next section. If not, repeat step 4 until it is.
How You Can Make It Better
- Keep in mind that people don’t want to read large blocks of text online.
- Look for opportunities to use images, diagrams, audio or video to convey information instead of text.
- Create bulleted lists, headings and links throughout the content.
- Use relevant tone and style to connect with your audience.
- Look for patterns in the content. This may include creating templates of content (i.e. staff bio pages that include photos, contact info and a short paragraph about the person).
- Consult with a copywriter.
- Keep in mind the benefits of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and follow your analytics. If you know which keywords or phrases users type into search engines, you can incorporate those into your site content.
- Jakob Nielsen (the father of modern usability) has some very useful articles on writing for the Web. Even though they’re more than 10 years old, these principles still apply.
- A List Apart is a great resource for all things Web and has some great articles about writing for the web.
- Smashing Magazine is a Web industry site with a great list of useful writing tools.
Let's get the discussion going. Please comment on this article.